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Many observers view slavery and freedom as polar opposites, but both slave and free wage labor systems rely on compulsion. Slave systems depend ultimately on physical coercion to force slaves to work for masters, although cultural, ideological, and economic pressures typically augment physical force.
Wage labor systems, by contrast, depend on workers being free "in the double sense" Marx pp. In the absence of subsistence alternatives, economic necessity compels "free" workers to exchange labor services for wages. Although wage labor systems depend primarily on labor-market processes to supply employers with workers, physical coercion often supplements those processes, especially during periods of economic decline.
Cultural expectations and ideological appeals also reinforce market mechanisms. Nevertheless, large-scale labor systems are maintained primarily by a mixture of physical and economic coercion that varies with the availability of subsistence alternatives.
The way in which the constellation of sub servitude and economic coercion and subsistence alternatives is determined by the power of contending groups as well as historically specific cultural and ideological factors has been of great interest to social scientists. Perhaps the simplest and most durable statement of the causes of slavery is a conjecture known as the Nieboer—Domar hypothesis Nieboer ; Domar ; Engerman a; see Patterson b for a critiquewhich links slavery to an abundance of arable land combined with a shortage of labor.
The way in which slavery differs from other forms of involuntary servitude is explained in the next section. The Nieboer—Domar hypothesis is then amended to provide a provisional explanation for the worldwide trend away from slavery and toward freedom in large-scale labor systems over the last several hundred years.
Finally, the Nieboer—Domar hypothesis is reevaluated in light of current patterns of slavery and involuntary servitude around the world. Pattersonp. First, slaves suffer perpetual domination that ultimately is enforced by violence. The permanent subjugation of slaves is predicated on the capacity of masters to coerce them physically. Second, slaves suffer natal alienation, or the severance of all family ties and the nullification of all claims of birth. They inherit no protection or privilege from their ancestors, and they cannot convey protection or privilege to their descendants.
Third, slaves are denied honor, whereas masters are socially exalted. This condition appears to be derivative rather than definitive of slavery because all hierarchical social systems develop legitimating ideologies that elevate elites and denigrate those at lower levels. The first two conditions, which distinguish slavery from other forms of involuntary servitude, constitute the working definition used in this article. In chattel slave systems, slaves are movable property owned by masters and exchanged through market processes.
Because some societies constructed elaborate slave systems without well-developed notions of property and property sub servitude, property relationships cannot be an essential defining element of slavery Patterson ; a. Nevertheless, property relations and economic processes had important effects on slavery and other forms of unfree labor in the Americas, Europe, and Africa in the period after the fifteenth century, which is the major focus of this analysis. An unfree laborer cannot voluntarily terminate service to a master once the servile relationship has been established. Slavery maximizes the subordination of servant to master.
Other servile workers, such as indentured and contract laborers, debt servants, peons, and pawns, are less dominated than slaves are and do not suffer natal alienation. Pawns, for example, were offered by their families in return for loans. Pawns maintained kinship ties to their original families, a situation which gave them some protection, and were freed once the loans were repaid. Indentured servants agreed to be bound to a master for a specific term, such as seven years, in exchange for a benefit such as passage to America or release from prison Morris ; Smith ; Morgan Contract laborers also were bound for specified terms but could not be sold sub servitude their will to other masters, as was the case with indentured servants.
Debt servitude consists of labor service obligations that are not reduced by the amount of work performed Morris ; Sawyer Peons are tied to land as debt servants and owe labor services to a landlord. Serfs are not debt servants, but they are tied to land and perform labor services on their lords' estates. The right to labor services enjoyed by European feudal lords was vested in their political authority rather than in land ownership, although serfs were reduced to slaves in all but name in some instances e. Indentured servants and contract sub servitude may agree to the initial terms of their servitude, but they cannot willingly end it during its term once it begins.
Usually some form of coercion, such as poverty, debt, or impending imprisonment, was necessary to force people to agree to terms of contractual servitude or pawnship. By contrast, the status of the slave, serf, peon, and debt servant typically was inherited or imposed on workers against their will. In its simplest form, the Nieboer—Domar hypothesis states that abundant free land makes it impossible for free workers and nonworking landowners to coexist. If free land is available and laborers can desert landowners whenever they choose, landowners will be unable to keep enough workers to maintain their status as nonworkers.
If landlords can compel workers to perform labor services despite the availability of free land, landlords become labor lords and workers are not free. By contrast, scarce land combined with an abundant labor supply drives wages down, making wage laborers less expensive than slaves and other servile workers. When they are denied access to land, hunger forces workers to labor for wages and wage labor systems displace slave labor systems. Sub servitude model appears to be deficient in at least four ways. First, as Domar recognized, political factors determine the degree of freedom enjoyed by workers.
Chief among those factors is the extent to which the state protects the interests of landowners when they conflict with those of laborers. Large-scale slave labor systems cannot exist without states that defend the power of slave masters to control and utilize the labor of slaves. A powerful state is essential for protecting slave masters against slave rebellions, capturing runaways, and enforcing slave discipline. State power is required for the enslavement of new supplies of slaves. If the state is responsive to the demands of workers or if workers can voluntarily withdraw their labor services, unfree labor systems cannot sub servitude maintained.
Second, the model ps that slave masters exploit slaves in response to economic incentives, but slaves and other unfree laborers often provided military, administrative, domestic, and sexual services largely unrelated to economic activities Roberts and Miers ; Patterson The Nieboer—Domar hypothesis therefore does not apply to societies that employ slaves and other servile workers in noncommercial or minor economic roles Lovejoy ; Finley It also does not apply to states that use race, religion, gender, or other status criteria to restrict the freedom of workers for noneconomic reasons James Third, the key issue from an employer's perspective is not simply the ratio of land to labor but the relative costs and benefits of different forms of labor that can be profitably employed using existing capital including land.
A more general version of the Nieboer—Domar model compares the stock of available capital to the availability of different forms of labor at prevailing prices. Thus, labor scarcity means the scarcity of labor at prices that allow it to be employed profitably. Fourth, the simple version of the Nieboer—Domar hypothesis ignores the organizational capacities of workers and capitalists' ability to adopt labor-saving innovations.
If workers demand concessions that threaten profits or engage in strikes and other production disruptions, capitalists experience "labor shortages" that stem not from insufficient s but from the organized resistance of the workers who are present Miles Faced with such disruptions, capitalists with sufficient capital may adopt labor-saving innovations if they are available. When capitalists are unable to adopt those innovations, they may resort to coercive strategies to curb workers' market-based demands Paige This case contradicts the Nieboer—Domar hypothesis, sub servitude assumes that high ratios of labor to capital or land make coercive labor control strategies unnecessary.
From the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, Europe, Africa, and the Americas were closely linked by flows of people and commodities Lovejoy ; Eltis The colonization of the Americas by strong European states provided vast, lightly populated lands for commercial exploitation. Expanding markets in Europe for sugar, cotton, tobacco, coffee, and other commodities stimulated the demand for greater supplies of servile labor to work the plantations and mines of the Americas.
Weak states in large areas of sub-Saharan Africa left large populations vulnerable to armed predation by stronger states that supplied the expanding markets for slaves. Estimates of the s of bondsmen and slaves transported to the Americas are subject to sizable errors because of the paucity and unreliability of existing records, but relative magnitudes are thought to be reasonable see Table 1. Differences in the sources of servile labor produced different racial compositions across American regions. Slaves from Africa outed arrivals from Europe nearly four to one beforeand most were bound for sugarcane plantations in Brazil and the West Indies.
British North America was atypical because its early immigrants were predominantly white indentured servants from Britain, Ireland, and Germany; perhaps two-thirds of the white immigrants who arrived before the American Revolution were bonded servants Smithp. Before being displaced by African slaves, white bondsmen were the principal source of labor in the plantation regions of all British colonies, including those in the Caribbean Engerman a; Galenson sub servitude Indentured servitude was the principal method of defraying the costs of supplying the colonies with workers.
British laws and customs regulating master—servant relationships were modified ificantly to fit American circumstances Galenson Because of the high costs of transatlantic passage, longer periods of service were required, typically four to seven years rather than one year or less in England.
English servants could not be sold against their will to another master, but that practice was sanctioned in colonial laws and customs because European servants could not negotiate terms with perspective masters before immigrating to America.
Finally, opportunities for escape were much greater in America. Consequently, elaborate state enforcement mechanisms sub servitude implemented to discourage runaways and to catch, punish, and return those who did. Most indentured servants were transported to plantation regions. Employers in areas such as New England could afford few or no servants because they specialized in trades with lower labor productivity and lower profit margins.
White servile labor was replaced by black slavery throughout the Americas between and Racial prejudice encouraged the shift but probably was not decisive Morgan First, the limited supply of indentured servants could not satisfy the demand for servile labor, whereas the supply of African slaves was almost completely elastic.
Improving economic sub servitude in Britain and state restrictions on the emigration of British servants reduced the s seeking passage to America, causing the price of servants to increase. As the price of sub servitude exceeded the price of slaves, first for unskilled and later for skilled workers, slaves came to be preferred to bonded servants Galenson Second, Africans were more resistant to the diseases of the tropics, where the most important export crops were grown Eltis Third, slaves could be compelled to comply with the labor-intensive plantation work regime that developed Fogel Slaves were more efficient and profitable than free or indentured workers in sugar, cotton, coffee, rice, and tobacco agriculture because the work required by those crops could be performed efficiently by slave work gangs.
Work gangs were organized according to specialized tasks, and slaves were ased to particular gangs according to their skills and capacities. The work was performed under close supervision to maintain work intensity and quality. Slave masters often used brutal violence to enforce discipline, but naked force might have been used less than once was thought. Slave masters experimented with different sub servitude of positive and negative incentives, to encourage slaves to maximize their output Fogel Thus, slave plantations anticipated the discipline of workers in the great factories of industrial capitalism, where assembly lines regulate the rhythms and intensity of work.
Forced migration from Africa greatly exceeded all migration from Europe as sugar production became the greatest consumer of servile labor in the Americas. High death rates and a preference for male slaves in the sugar-producing regions led to net population declines among blacks and mulattoes compare immigration s to population sizes in Table 1but the proportion of blacks in the British West Indies increased from 25 to 91 percent between and Fogelp. By the s, the proportion of blacks and mulattoes in Brazil, the Guyanas, and the West Indies reached 75 percent Table 1.
British North America was an exception to this pattern as both black and white populations had high rates of natural increase. Almost all major slave societies were unable to maintain the size of slave populations without continuous replenishment from outside sources. By contrast, the slave population in the United Sub servitude multiplied because of unusually high fertility rates and low mortality rates see Table 1 and Fogel Political factors also encouraged the transition from white servitude to black slavery Engerman b; Galenson As British citizens, indentured servants retained state-protected natal rights that their masters were obliged to respect.
For example, masters could beat servants and slaves to enforce work discipline, but colonial courts protected servants against unfair punishment Smith Importantly, Europeans could choose the place of their servitude, and most refused transportation to the plantation regions from the eighteenth century on. African slaves could not avoid the plantation regions and were citizens of no state in Africa or America that could or would defend their interests.
Because Spain conquered the continental regions with the largest Native American populations Table 1it had less need of African slaves. Instead, Spanish colonists installed a coercive labor system patterned on Spanish feudalism that forced natives to work part-time on colonial estates although slavery was still preferred in the mines Slicher Van Bath ; Kloosterboer Unfree labor markets and compulsory labor endured for years, eventually evolving into debt servitude in the nineteenth century.
Native Americans and mestizos ed for nearly 80 percent of the population of continental Spanish America by but were almost annihilated in the West Indies Table 1. Nowhere in the Americas was slavery in danger of withering away economically at the time when it was abolished Eltis Furthermore, with the principal exception of Haiti inslave rebellions were not successful in conquering slave masters and transforming a slave system into a wage labor system.
Paradoxically, Britain played the dominant role in abolishing slavery and the transatlantic slave trade even though it controlled half the transatlantic commerce in slaves and half of the world's exports in sugar and coffee, which were produced primarily on slave plantations Eltis Britain outlawed the slave trade in and freed the slaves in its West Indian colonies in over the strenuous objections of slave owners.
The United States prohibited the importation of slaves afterand civil war led to abolition in By the s, all the major European and American maritime and commercial powers had acquiesced to British pressure and outlawed the slave trade. Brazil, the last state in the Americas to abolish slavery, did so inSub servitude
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