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George Caffentzis


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George Caffentzis is a political philosopher and autonomist Marxist. He is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine and a founding member of the Midnight Notes Collective.

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In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and Value Author: George Caffentzis
Publisher: PM Press/Common Notions/Autonomedia
ISBN: 978-1-60486-335-2
Published February 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 304 Pages
Subjects: Philosophy/Economics
$19.95

Karl Marx remarked that the only way to write about the origins of capitalism is in the letters of blood and fire used to drive workers from the common lands, forests, and waters in the sixteenth century. In this collection of essays, George Caffentzis argues that the same is true for the annals of twenty-first-century capitalism. Information technology, immaterial production, financialization, and globalization have been trumpeted as inaugurating a new phase of capitalism that puts it beyond its violent origins. Instead of being a period of major social and economic novelty, however, the course of recent decades has been a return to the fire and blood of struggles at the advent of capitalism.

Emphasizing class struggles that have proliferated across the social body of global capitalism, Caffentzis shows how a wide range of conflicts and antagonisms in the labor-capital relation express themselves within and against the work process. These struggles are so central to the dynamic of the system that even the most sophisticated machines cannot liberate capitalism from class struggle and the need for labor. Themes of war and crisis permeate the text and are given singular emphasis, documenting the peculiar way in which capital perpetuates violence and proliferates misery on a world scale. This collection draws upon a careful rereading of Marx’s thought in order to elucidate political concerns of the day. Originally written to contribute to the debates of the anticapitalist movement over the last thirty years, this book makes Caffentzis’s writings readily available as tools for the struggle in this period of transition to a common future.

Praise:

"George Caffentzis has been the philosopher of the anticapitalist movement from the American civil rights movement of the 1960s to the European autonomists of the 1970s, from the Nigerian workers of the oil boom of the 1980s to the encuentros of the Zapatistas in the 1990s, from the feminists of wages-for-housework to the struggle of the precariat for the commons. A historian of our own times, he carries the political wisdom of the twentieth century into the twenty-first. Here is capitalist critique and proletarian reasoning fit for our time.”
—Peter Linebaugh, author of The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All 

“George Caffentzis’s essays in this timely collection offer a sharply uncompromising analysis of the transmutations of capital over the last three decades and a rereading of the classic texts in light of our own times. They teach us the constant alertness that we must embrace at the frontline of value struggle.”
—Massimo De Angelis, author of The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital

“These essays reveal not only the blood and fire of twenty-first-century primitive accumulation but also the inescapable linkage of this savage and ongoing process to new forms of futuristic dispossession inscribed with robot ichor, silicon chips, and genomic code. George Caffentzis has for decades been creating a contemporary Marxism that is profoundly theorized, deeply historical, utterly original, compulsively readable, and always connected to the fighting fronts of an ever-changing class struggle. Today his writings are integral to, and indispensable for an understanding of, the uprisings of a global proletariat that has again exploded across the planet.”
—Nick Dyer-Witheford, author of Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism

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What Others are Saying

lettersRefusing the Planetary Work Machine: A Review of Revolution at Point Zero and In Letterts of Blood and Fire
by Kevin Van Meter
Perspectives Journal

"Revolution at Point Zero8 opens with Federici’s 1975 essay “Wages against Housework.” Challenging the notion that the wages for housework demand was simply about the figure of the housewife and wages due, she argues that “[w]ages for housework [...] is a revolutionary demand not because by itself it destroys capital, but because it forces capital to restructure social relations in terms more favorable to us and consequently more favorable to the unity of the class.”9 Put clearly, the demand is for the unwaged work of social reproduction – that is, the reproduction of a particularly important commodity for capital: the workers’ ability to work– to be recognized as such through its refusal. Hence the refusal of gendered, unwaged work is part of class struggle and a class project beyond capital’s imposition of such work. Earlier in the chapter she notes, “women have always found ways of fighting back, or getting back at them, but always in an isolated and privatized way. .."

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In Letters of Blood and Fire: A Review
Publishers Weekly
July 2013

In this collection of essays published as part of the Common Notion series, philosophy professor and activist Caffentzis drolly articulates the relevancies of Marxism to issues of contemporary capitalism. Topics include the current financial crisis, the reciprocal and beneficial relationship between capitalism and war, our romanticized view of mechanization, and the puritan undertones in the desire for space colonization-just to name a few. Each essay through different routes aims to unveil the inherent and pervasive violence of contemporary capitalism. To this end these essays are loosely themed using the three headings: "Work/Refusal;" "Machines;" and "Money, War, and Crisis." Unfortunately, the categories provide little cohesion to the collection. Throughout the book certain ideas are excessively reiterated such as Caffentzis' theories on Turing Machines, and others are left undeveloped. The essays themselves are uneven, ranging from witty and incisive to monotonous, self-important, and dull. Even so, Caffentzis' analysis is cutting and the project he is attempting is extremely pertinent, which is the redeeming merit of the book.

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In Letters of Blood and Fire: A Review
The New Yorker
July 5th 2013

George Caffentzis has been writing as part of what is sometimes called the “anti-capitalist” movement for roughly thirty years. “In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism” is the best available collection of his work. Rooted in Marxist fundamentals, Caffentzis examines how capital has turned forces like “information technology” into newer and more efficient modes of labor exploitation. His tone is less stringent than that of some academics (thought this isn’t a book for anyone scared of theory), and he pokes around into more historical badger holes than other writers in his cohort (the Turing machine pops up).

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