George Caffentzis is a philosopher of money and a leading thinker in the development of autonomist thought. He has been a participant in numerous movements since the civil rights period, when he was first arrested in sit-ins during the early 1960s. He continued his political activism, especially in the antinuclear power movement, throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1974, he coedited the first issue of Zerowork and in 1978 cofounded the Midnight Notes Collective, publishing the journal of the collective over the next thirty years.
Starting in 1983, Caffentzis lived in southeastern Nigeria, near the oil center of the country, where he taught logic, philosophy, and the history of science in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Calabar. It was in Nigeria that Caffentzis first learned of the “new enclosures” implicit in the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs and the politics of oil from the ground level. By 1987, these very structural adjustment programs made it increasingly difficult for him to continue working in Nigeria. He returned to the United States to teach at the University of Southern Maine, where he is now a professor in the Philosophy Department and the Honors Program.
George Caffentzis has been the philosopher of the anti-capitalist 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. Trained as both an economist and a physicist he has taken fundamental categories such as money, time, work, energy, and value and re-thought them in relation to both revolutionary Marxism and to the dynamics of our changing movement. An historian of our own times he carries the political wisdom of the 20th into the 21st century. He is a lively and dogged polemicist; he dances circles around the pompous marxologist; with the passing of time his thought has grown in depth and increasingly tends to be expressed with pleasure and humor. The lever by which he overturns the world is light as a feather, and its fulcrum is as down to earth as the housewife, the student, the peasant, the worker. Here is capitalist critique and proletarian reasoning fit for our time. —Peter Linebaugh, author of The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All
He has published many books and articles on issues ranging from the death penalty, self-reproducing automata, peak oil, the enclosure of knowledge in Africa, and the philosophy of money. His writing has been consistently motivated by his political engagements in the anti-nuclear, anti-war, anti-capital punishment, alter-globalization, pro-Zapatista, and pro-commons movements. Over the years, his original and powerful contributions to international anti-capitalist movements have stemmed from his stretching and developing of autonomist concepts steeped in the insights from feminist experiences of Wages for Housework, operaist thinkers and militants in Italy, and historical studies of class struggle inspired by E.P. Thompson and his comrades.
George Caffentzis is also cofounder of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa. He has taught and lectured in colleges and universities throughout the world and his work has been translated into many languages. His most recent book is In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press/ Common Notions, 2013). Previous books include: Clipped Coins, Abused Words, and Civil Government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money and Exciting the Industry of Mankind: George Berkeley’s Philosophy of Money. He is also coeditor of Midnight Oil: Work Energy War 1973–1992; Auroras of the Zapatistas: Local and Global Struggles in the Fourth World War; and A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities.