Abolition, Modern Slavery In The Americas, Bibliography
Slavery is possibly the most ubiquitous of all human institutions. It has existed in most times and most places, and few peoples have not, at various times, been either the enslaved or the enslavers. While slavery has generally been coerced, the result of war capture or kidnapping, in periods of low and variable levels of agricultural output slavery has been entered into voluntarily, people choosing survival ahead of freedom. Slavery has almost always been a status reserved to those, both males and females, considered outsiders to the enslaving society, but the definition of the outsider has varied over time and place. It has been based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, race, or membership in a different tribal or clan group. Individuals who are considered outsiders have a different legal status and can be subject to different treatment and punishments from those considered members of the enslaving society, who will not become slaves, whatever their treatment in other regards.
Slavery is regarded as one end of a spectrum that includes different forms of coerced labor, including serfdom, indentured labor, debt bondage, and "wage slavery," in contrast with so-called free labor. Slavery is characterized legally as including the right to buy and sell the enslaved and to have control over where the slave will reside and the nature of his or her labor. As a legal system it is enforced by the government or the elites, and this enforcement is central to its continuity, since it precludes one individual bidding slaves away from their owner as well as ensuring that runaway slaves will be returned to their owners. These legal rights are given slave owners and create an unbalanced power relationship, with psychological impacts upon the enslaved; these rights do not mean, however, that nominally free labor need be treated better or have a higher material standard of living than do slaves. If there are limited choices of work and residence due to poverty, the dramatic legal difference may seem more limited in its consequences in actuality.
The work performed by slave labor varied among slavery societies, and in several societies slave women served as concubines or objects for the sexual pleasure of the enslavers and not just as agricultural or industrial workers. In the extensive debate about the relative efficiency of free versus slave labor in agriculture, the expected benefits described for free labor included both the greater incentives of free labor compared to a slave system that presumably had no incentives and the greater need for free labor to work hard to avoid starvation, whereas slaves could be supported by their owners.
- Slavery - Abolition
- Slavery - Modern Slavery In The Americas
- Slavery - Bibliography
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