Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study

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Harvard University Press, 1982 - Social Science - 511 pages
6 Reviews

This is the first full-scale comparative study of the nature of slavery. In a work of prodigious scholarship and enormous breadth, which draws on the tribal, ancient, premodern, and modern worlds, Orlando Patterson discusses the internal dynamics of slavery in sixty-six societies over time. These include Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, China, Korea, the Islamic kingdoms, Africa, the Caribbean islands, and the American South. Slavery is shown to be a parasitic relationship between master and slave, invariably entailing the violent domination of a natally alienated, or socially dead, person. The phenomenon of slavery as an institution, the author argues, is a single process of recruitment, incorporation on the margin of society, and eventual manumission or death.

Distinctions abound in this work. Beyond the reconceptualization of the basic master-slave relationship and the redefinition of slavery as an institution with universal attributes, Patterson rejects the legalistic Roman concept that places the "slave as property" at the core of the system. Rather, he emphasizes the centrality of sociological, symbolic, and ideological factors interwoven within the slavery system. Along the whole continuum of slavery, the cultural milieu is stressed, as well as political and psychological elements. Materialistic and racial factors are deemphasized. The author is thus able, for example, to deal with "elite" slaves, or even eunuchs, in the same framework of understanding as fieldhands; to uncover previously hidden principles of inheritance of slave and free status; and to show the tight relationship between slavery and freedom.

Interdisciplinary in its methods, this study employs qualitative and quantitative techniques from all the social sciences to demonstrate the universality of structures and processes in slave systems and to reveal cross-cultural variations in the slave trade and in slavery, in rates of manumission, and in the status of freedmen. Slavery and Social Death lays out a vast new corpus of research that underpins an original and provocative thesis.

  

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Review: Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study

User Review  - Sam Diener - Goodreads

This book is astonishing in its ambition, scope, and erudition. In its exploration of the geographic and social diversity of slave societies, I learned a huge amount from it. It was stunning and ... Read full review

Review: Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study

User Review  - Jon Panofsky - Goodreads

The only reason that I am giving this book 3 stars and no lower, is because it IS the standard work on the subject. While very informative, this book is dreadfully tough to get through. Patterson's ... Read full review

Contents

The Internal Relations of Slavery
15
Authority Alienation and Social Death
35
Honor and Degradation
77
Slavery as an Institutional Process
103
Enslavement by Birth
132
The Acquisition of Slaves
148
The Condition of Slavery
172
Its Meaning and Modes
209
Patterns of Manumission
262
The Dialectics of Slavery
297
Slavery as Human Parasitism
334
Appendix
345
Appendix
353
Notes
365
Index
484
Copyright

The Status of Freed Persons
240

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References to this book

The Sexual Contract
Carole Pateman
Limited preview - 1988
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About the author (1982)

Orlando Patterson is John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University.

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