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Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674810839
ISBN-10: 067481083X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This is clearly a major and important work, one which will be widely discussed, cited, and used. I anticipate that it will be considered among the landmarks in the study of slavery, and will be read by historians, sociologists, and anthropologists--as well as many other scholars and students. It will be of concern to readers interested in just about any time and place, and not only to those with a specific interest in slavery. It covers an enormous range of materials in history, the social sciences, and the humanities, with unusually broad geographic and chronological scope. The materials are very well handled using a variety of methods, the questions asked are interesting and important, and the entire discussion is of highest quality. (Stanley Engerman, coauthor with Robert Fogel of Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery)

Densely packed, closely argued, and highly controversial in its dissent from much of the scholarly conventional wisdom about the function and structure of slavery worldwide. (Boston Globe)

There can be no doubt that this rich and learned book will reinvigorate debates that have tended to become too empirical and specialized. Patterson has helped to set out the direction for the next decades of interdisciplinary scholarship. (David Brion Davis New York Review of Books)

Review

This is clearly a major and important work, one which will be widely discussed, cited, and used. I anticipate that it will be considered among the landmarks in the study of slavery, and will be read by historians, sociologists, and anthropologists--as well as many other scholars and students. It will be of concern to readers interested in just about any time and place, and not only to those with a specific interest in slavery. It covers an enormous range of materials in history, the social sciences, and the humanities, with unusually broad geographic and chronological scope. The materials are very well handled using a variety of methods, the questions asked are interesting and important, and the entire discussion is of highest quality. (Stanley Engerman, coauthor with Robert Fogel of Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 511 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1st edition (1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067481083X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674810839
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Patterson's book is one of the best books on slavery as an universal phenomena. There is simply no parallel to this vaunted study. That is, he reveals lucidly that slavery was an important factor among all civilizations, tribals groups among the pre Christian Europeans, Africans, and the Near and Far Easteners. Also, Patterson is one of the few to note that skin color was not the deciding factor of a slave. Wars, ransom, meagre economic circumstances all contributed to one's enslavement. Among the early African slaves in America, their hair symbolized their enslaved status. What he does not mention, though, is the fact that to understand the fullest implications of Nazi German racial laws, one must seek to understand the enslavement of the Slavs by the Germans.
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Patterson's book must be one of the most ambitious studies of slavery ever published. Patterson, a sociology professor, examined dozens of slave cultures across time and place in an effort to determine what tied them all together. He also sought an explanation for why this seemingly inhuman system of bondage, far from being a "peculiar institution," was highly effective and nearly universal throughout history. Patterson's ambition did not end there. His research led him to argue that slavery was an essential element in the growth of democracy and property rights, "the most profoundly cherished ideals and beliefs in the Western tradition." According to Patterson, this was because "those who most denied freedom, as well as those to whom it was most denied, were the very persons most alive to it." To put it bluntly: no slavery, no freedom.

Patterson explains this seeming paradox through the concept of natal alienation and its offspring, social death. Masters asserted their domination by robbing slaves of "ties of birth in both ascending and descending generations," leaving them in a state of natal alienation. Patterson also points to violent coercion, which was a staple of all slave societies. He cites Plato and Judge Thomas Ruffin to show that slaves were disgraced by their acceptance of this treatment, leading to social death in the eyes of humanity. The slave, having no history, family, or dignity, was not considered a person but an extension of his master. Ultimately, Patterson argues, "slavery is the permanent, violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons." Slaves, more than they are workers or property, are despised outsiders.

Whatever one may think of Patterson's conclusions, the hard work that led to them cannot be overlooked.
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By A Customer on June 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Patterson's book is groundbreaking for many reasons. That is, unlike other scholars of slavery, Patterson does not solely restrict himself to describing slaves and the institutions of slavery by juridical terms (eg Moses Finley). What is crucial to understanding the station of slaves in all societies, African: the various tribal slave systems, European: Roman,Greek,French,Dutch and English;Asian: Jewish, Islam,Indian, Korean etc is that the slave is defined by the absence of power. The slave is compelled to forgo his or her rights and concede to the domination of the owner. The slave is powerless before his or her master.This absence of power on the part of the slave was common to all slave societies, least of all the American slave society who had embraced the Aristotlean notions of slavery and discarded the Romans' who saw slavery as an outcome of fate.
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Format: Paperback
Quite simply, no other book on the history of slavery or its impacts has ever been written. This is a profound look at bondage and what it means to, not only break those bonds, but to live with them and retain humanity.
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This book was an excellent tool that I used for my research project in college. Patterson describes intensely interesting subjects and scales many periods of slavery through common themes! Interesting book! Can't wait to finish it!
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Instructive and enlightening about the deep effects of slavery. All descendants of those who suffered this gruesome and inhumane practice must read this book.
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