At the outset of Marx for Cats, Leigh Claire La Berge declares that “all history is the history of cat struggle.” Revising the medieval bestiary form to meet Marxist critique, La Berge follows feline footprints through Western economic history to reveal an animality at the heart of Marxism. She draws on a twelve-hundred-year arc spanning capitalism’s feudal prehistory, its colonialist and imperialist ages, the bourgeois revolutions that supported capitalism, and the communist revolutions that opposed it to outline how cats have long been understood as creatures of economic critique and liberatory possibility. By attending to the repeated archival appearance of lions, tigers, wildcats, and “sabo-tabbies,” La Berge argues that felines are central to how Marxists have imagined the economy, and by asking what humans and animals owe each other in a moment of ecological crisis, La Berge joins current debates about the need for and possibility of eco-socialism. In this playful and generously illustrated radical bestiary, La Berge demonstrates that class struggle is ultimately an interspecies collaboration.
Acknowledgments ix Introduction. Cat out of the Bag 1 Part I. Menace and Menagerie: The Feudal Mode of Production and Its Cats, 800–1500 1. Lion Kings 25 Intermezzo 1. The Lion-Cat Dialectic 53 2. The Devil’s Cats 58 Part II. The Feline Call to Freedom: Slavery and Revolution in the Age of Empire, 1500–1800 3. Divine Lynxes 95 Intermezzo 2. The Tiger-Tyger Dialectic 125 4. Revolutionary Tigers 129 Part III. Our Dumb Beasts: The Rise of the Bourgeoisie and Its Appropriation of Cats, 1800–1900 5. Wildcats 177 Intermezzo 3. The Cat-Mouse Dialectic 207 6. Domestic Cats, Communal and Servile 212 Part IV. Every Paw Can Be a Claw: Revolutions with Cats, Revolutions Against Capitalism, 1900–2000 7. Sabo-Tabbies 251 Intermezzo 4. The Cat-Comrade Dialectic 288 8. Black Panthers 294 Epilogue. Pussy Cats 329 Notes 339 Bibliography 363 Index 383
Leigh Claire La Berge is Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and author of Wages Against Artwork: Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art, also published by Duke University Press.
“Marx for Cats is an undomesticated and indefinable meow de coeur. You can open this book anywhere---it's a Marxist Choose Your Own Adventure---and come away as unsettled, possessed, and reflective as any transportative encounter with a cat might leave you.”
~Jordy Rosenberg, author of, Confessions of the Fox
“Who knew that following cats could open up history and enliven Marxism? This delightful archive of the feline in class struggle reminds us that cats are our comrades. Hand in paw, we have a world to win!”
~Jodi Dean, author of, Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging