8 characteristics of slavery
Slavery is the name given to any social system based on the exploitation of slaves for economic production. Its origins date back to the era of the agricultural revolution, and since then, it has adapted to different historical conditions.
For example, the economies of Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, the Aztec empire, Greece, and Rome were enslaved. Colonialism and imperialism were also slavers. It has also happened that non-slave models, such as feudalism, adopt some features of it.
As a system, slavery is characterized by the following elements:
1. Strong social stratification
The slave models are structured in two main groups: the slave sectors themselves and the mass of slaves. The slave sectors are usually divided, in turn, into large landowners, owners of large workshops, merchants and usurers.
The slave sector is not only the owner of the means of production (land or industry) but also of the instruments, of the objects of work, of the slave, of the product of their work and of the profits.
In the middle of these groups, there is an intermediate sector of the free population, made up of small owners (artisans and peasants) and the people of such sectors who have become impoverished and marginalized from the social order.
2. The slave is private property
The slave is property, and is thus private property. In all slave models, slaves are not considered persons, but the property of another person, which is the foundation of the system. This implies that the master can treat the slave as merchandise and make use of his body in any way he wishes.
3. Deliberate use of violence
Slavery requires the exercise of deliberate violence to guarantee the submission of slaves, both in the process of capturing slaves and afterwards. This means not only inhumane tasks, activities and / or workdays, but cruel and often deadly punishments.
These mistreatments and punishments are not necessarily carried out by the slave owners, but by middle-ranking employees on their behalf, who are usually licensed to do “what is necessary”. For example, in the case of colonial slave systems, this function was fulfilled by the foremen of the haciendas.
4. Ethnic or gender component
Slavery has a strong component of ethnic and gender discrimination. This means that a weighty element in the capture of slaves is the perception of difference, and from this, the principle of superiority over the others, which is defined within the framework of the values of a given culture. Foreigners, women, prisoners of war, alien ethnic groups or declassified people have historically been the target population of slave traders.
We can cite the following examples: the enslavement of blacks and natives in the colonization of America; the enslavement of the Jewish people in ancient Egypt or the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation (still in force).
5. Low individual production, but high mass production
In slave models, slaves resist through poor quality production or low individual production (includes sabotage such as deliberate deterioration of work tools). However, the low costs of slaves allow for their mass purchase, ultimately resulting in high production.
6. The slave trade is seen as a legitimate economic activity
Slave systems, since they conceive slaves as merchandise, consider the slave trade as a legitimate economic activity, which fulfills a function within the productive apparatus. To oppose it is thus to oppose the system.
7. The slave has no rights
The slave does not have any kind of rights because he is not considered a person but a "tool" or "merchandise". That includes economic, civil and human rights. For example, the history of the colony shows that slaves did not have any legal protection. Although in some societies it was foreseen that the slave could eventually buy his freedom, it depended on his employer accepting it, and it was he who had the last word.
8. Hereditary nature of slavery
Every time the slave is conceived as the owner's property, his progeny also become his property, without generating any type of maternity right. Every son of a slave is, therefore, one more slave that is counted within the properties of the lord.