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"Between Primitive Accumulation and the New Enclosures," Ithaca, New York, March 30–31, 2007

"Between Primitive Accumulation and the New Enclosures"

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, March 30–31, 2007

Friday, March 30

A.D. White House, Guerlac Room


"Primitive Accumulation" as "Accumulation by Dispossession": An Introduction

Saturday, March 31

Multipurpose Room, Africana Studies and Research Center

"Neoliberalism, Neocolonialism, and the New Enclosures: The Case of Africa"


"War is the health of the state": Afflicted Powers, September 11, and the Need for Anarchist Analysis

"Modernity is many things. Secularization is one of them, and speed-up, and the cult of technics, and disenchantment of the world, and false orientation to the future. But right at the heart of capitalist modernity, we would argue, has been a process of endless enclosure. The great work of the past half-millennium was the cutting-off of the world's natural and human resources from common use. Land, water, the fruits of the forest, the spaces of custom and communal negotiation, the mineral substrate, the life of rivers and oceans, the very airwaves—capitalism has depended, and still depends, on more and more of these shared properties being shared no longer, whatever the violence or absurdity involved in converting the stuff of humanity into this or that item for sale. Enclosure seems to us the best word for the process's overall logic." — Retort, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War

"These New Enclosures . . . name the large-scale reorganization of the accumulation process which has been underway since the mid-1970s. The main objective of this process has been to uproot workers from the terrain on which their organizational power has been built, so that, like the African slaves transplanted to the Americas, they are forced to work and fight in a strange environment where the forms of resistance possible at home are no longer available. . . Thus, once again, as at the dawn of capitalism, the physiognomy of the world proletariat is that of the pauper, the vagabond, the criminal, the panhandler, the street peddler, the refugee sweatshop worker, the mercenary, the rioter." — Midnight Notes Collective, The New Enclosures

The conference will gather four outstanding thinkers within the field of analysis that both relies on and extends Marx's disquisition in Capital (Volume 1) on what he calls "primitive accumulation." This process of the assertion of the right of private property over land that was previously held in common, that is, of enclosure, has in recent years been understood to continue to extend its reach globally and in ways that Marx could not have anticipated. The participants in the conference, mainstays of the Midnight Notes Collective and the Retort group, are among the most significant contributors to a theory and historiography of the New Enclosures, and to interventions aimed at recovering the commons. Iain Boal, George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici, and Peter Linebaugh will join us. A reader gathering material pertinent to the conference will be available (contact Barry Maxwell).

Sponsors: Society for the Humanities; Institute for German Cultural Studies; Future of Minority Studies Research Project; MITWS (Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies Research Group); Africana Studies and Research Center; Ethics and Public Life Program; Anthropology; Asian American Studies; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; English.