It is in this context that we must also read the attack against witchcraft and against that magical view of the world which, despite the efforts of the Church, had continued to prevail on a popular level through the Middle Ages. At the basis of magic was an animistic conception of nature that did not admit to any separation between matter and spirit, and thus imagined the cosmos as a living organism, populated by occult forces, where every element was in “sympathetic” relation with the rest. In this perspective where nature was viewed as a universe of signs and signatures, marking invisible affinities that had to be deciphered (Foucault 1973: 26–27), every element — herbs, plants, metals, and most of all the human body — hid virtues and powers peculiar to it. Thus, a variety of practices were designed to appropriate the secrets of nature and bend its powers to the human will. From palmistry to divination, from the use of charms to healing by sympathy, magic opened a vast number of possibilities. There was magic designed to win card games, to play unknown instruments, to become invisible, to win somebody’s love, to gain immunity in war, to make children sleep (Thomas 1971).
To eradicate these practices was a necessary condition of the capitalist rationalization of work, since magic appeared as an instrument to obtain what one wanted without work, that is, as refusal of work in action. “Magic kills industry,” lamented Francis Bacon, admitting that nothing repelled him so much as the assumption that one could obtain results with a few idle expedients, rather than with the sweat of one’s brow (Bacon Works III: 381).

Silvia FEDERICI, The Great Caliban : The Struggle Against the Rebel Body p. 10


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