On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

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On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2019-02-05 11:21pm

Continuing from this discussion in the Brexit thread:
GrosseAdmiralFox wrote:
2019-02-04 09:45pm
The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-02-04 08:44pm
It is true that there were other forms of slavery, and perhaps you should have clarified which you were talking about, since you directly alluded to colonial/Southern slavery in the Americas, and that is the first thing most people will think of when you mention "slavery" today. Nonetheless, I apologize for any misunderstanding on my part. But I still have difficulty in seeing how the owning of sapient beings as chattel could ever be defensible.

This is, however, straying rather off-topic. Not a moderator here, but might I suggest that if you wish to debate the morality of slavery (or the larger question of whether rights are merely an extension of the level of technology a society possesses), that you create another thread for that purpose? Preferably while outlining which form of slavery you wish to defend? Or I can do so, if you prefer. Frankly, it seems more suited to the science/logic/morality forum, at this point.
That would be prudent before the Mods come upon us like an angry god... I alluded to southern slavery because that's the only slavery that most people remember (Rome would consider the slavery practiced by the colonial/Southerners to be absolutely barbaric IMHO, given what I know of Roman slavery).
So, let's have at it.

Question 1: Are there systems of slavery (such as Roman slavery) that are morally defensible in their historical context?

Question 2: More broadly, are there such things as universal rights, or universal right or wrong? Or do the rights people have need to be highly flexible in accordance with changing technology (the original discussion related to whether sweeping censorship of social media is necessary to protect democracy from misinformation and background noise)? Where should the line be drawn?
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-05 11:55pm

1) I think that the ancient world wouldn't have been able to survive without cheap sources of labor. One could argue that, while not outright slaves, that Serfs without freedom of movement or land rights were very close to slaves. So I think within the context of less advanced societies there was a need for cheap controlled manpower that modern society wouldn't find acceptable. Out and out slavery is obviously less defensible than enforced Serfdom, but I think that lacking so many modern rights, Serfs might count for your purposes.

2) All rights must be based on societies ability to grant and enforce rights. It would be all well and good for a medieval king to decree that nobody in his lands shall ever go hungry but lacking modern trade and farming techniques it would be impossible to make that happen. You also have to have the people on your side I doubt even an absolute monarch would have been able to grant full LGBT rights by decree in many ancient states, the church and likely the merchant classes wouldn't have stood for it and any such attempt would likely have lead to a change in kings post haste.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by GrosseAdmiralFox » 2019-02-06 12:47am

1) In the historical and technological context before many, many, many technologies and techniques that we take for granted (like the metal plow, turning agriculture into a literal science with it's own sub sciences that include the science of the fucking soil itself, and the mechanization of farming to name a few), farming is a manpower intensive process. Very manpower intensive. As in most people in history tend to have large families because they need the hands in working the fields (among other factors like fatality rates).

As such, the idea of slavery and serfdom became a vital component for most of history because of the majority of history lacked the technology to maximize food production with as few people as possible.

The idea of slavery became the monster we all love to hate because it basically was the only technologically viable thing available to them as they lacked the various technologies to minimize human participation in farming. As technology evolved and things like farm mechanization became commonplace, it became less and less justifiable for slavery to stay around as an institution. We're talking about something that has been rooted with human civilizations for practically the dawn of human civilization becoming not only obsolete but hated practically overnight.

Problem is that the Southern Slave Plutocracy had more or less became deathly reliant on the practice economically and everyone in the South socially... which led to the American Civil War. Remember, the only high-value cash crop in the South that was viable on a massive scale was cotton, but didn't take off until the cotton gin because of how tedious and inefficient it was to get rid of the seeds in the cotton. Slaves were that convent group that shit-poor white southerners used to feel better for themselves, so that they won't get shit upon by their 'social and/or economic betters'...

2) All rights, morality, and freedoms are based upon the technological context (which has a... complex relationship with social, political, economic, and military contexts to just to name a few, and they all influence each other but technology is a major influence on the others) of the era. There was once a time that privacy wasn't a thing because keeping secrets could doom the entire village (even the village leadership -both secular and religious had to be rather open as well, due to ensuring that they had the trust of the village and to make the best possible choices with as much information as possible), freedom of the press only became a thing because of the printing press and the massive increase of literacy coming from that, so on and so forth.

They aren't 'static' or 'eternal' as many people erroneously believe, historically rights, freedom, and morality are rather fluid when it comes to definitions, scopes, etc. They shift depending on the technological context of the time/era. If a right, a type of morality, or a freedom can't be sustained/ensured by the technological context, then that right/morality/freedom vanishes. Technologically... our technological context is going to kill privacy one way or another either by want or 'by sword' (aka, non-peaceful means) just because a little thing called Moore's Law exists, and has been applied to digital cameras. It is also being applied to gene-tech, and what little I can find about advances in gene-tech -given my immense love of non-fiction and later sci-fi (thank my mom for giving me her copy of The Foundation Trilogy for a middle school book reading project that I was forced to do, fiction was comparatively crap at my elementary schools, and being a technophile aspie that I was...)- and the fact that fiction has an uncanny ability to become reality in ways you didn't expect... the implications are fucking scary to say the least.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Gandalf » 2019-02-06 02:07am

So without being forced to stay on the land, nobody was going to grow food at all?
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 02:25am

Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-06 02:07am
So without being forced to stay on the land, nobody was going to grow food at all?
More like they wouldn't have given it away at a price that would allow for non-farmers to do other tasks. You can't feed a military without tithes of food from serfs, nor could you feed the builders working on castles and churches. You wouldn't really be able to have the upper classes and without merchants, kings, and churches you'd never get technological advances.

There's a reason most medieval societies were so heavily stratified, be they western or eastern, and it boils down to ensuring that food was cheap for those that weren't a part of the village that grew it.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Imperial Overlord » 2019-02-06 02:25am

1) Slavery sucks. Comparing Roman slavery to Southern slavery will show you differences but you're still going to arrive at the conclusion that being a field slaves sucks under both systems and being a house slave was somewhat better but meant being closer to your owners and the possibility of being used to satisfy their sexual and/or sexual whims. That Roman slavery has features I prefer to Southern slavery doesn't mean having pins stabbed into your arms is fun or that being regularly raped is more "okay".

2) Slavery isn't essential, it's convenient. It gives you cheap labor and and helps solves issues about how to handle prisoners of wars, debtors, and serious criminals in ways that are profitable. Note that these generally benefit property owning members of society, those with the need and the ability employ/buy additional labor. It's certainly widespread in the ancient world, but it appears to have been not very economically important in the Persian Empire or much of Ancient Egypt.
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Gandalf » 2019-02-06 02:28am

Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 02:25am
More like they wouldn't have given it away at a price that would allow for non-farmers to do other tasks. You can't feed a military without tithes of food from serfs, nor could you feed the builders working on castles and churches. You wouldn't really be able to have the upper classes and without merchants, kings, and churches you'd never get technological advances.

There's a reason most medieval societies were so heavily stratified, be they western or eastern, and it boils down to ensuring that food was cheap for those that weren't a part of the village that grew it.
That's an amazing set of assertions. Have you anything which back it up?
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 02:37am

Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-06 02:28am
That's an amazing set of assertions. Have you anything which back it up?
Would you give your labor away for free/cheap unless you were forced to?

Also, we can literally look at historical accounts of tax collection and peasant revolts to see how little they liked feeding the rest of the kingdom. You could argue that the rates were unfair and punitive, and often they were, but without cheap food to allow for a class with free time to contemplate and study you simply don't get major scientific or philosophical advances. How many leaps forward have ever come from the unwashed masses, especially in the days before literacy was common, now how many have come from the non-agrarian-classes with time to study?

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by GrosseAdmiralFox » 2019-02-06 02:40am

Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-06 02:07am
So without being forced to stay on the land, nobody was going to grow food at all?
More or less, remember for most of human history as farming in general tended to be a thankless and low-profit venture despite the fact that everyone needs food to survive. Sure, civilizations tried to attach cultural and economic significance to farming across history (hell, Rome during the days of it's citizen soldier armies had being a decent (at least) farmer be something to be proud of, as it allowed you to be part of the legions and had established a sort of mystic with farming via Cincinnatus and other Roman heroes), but those tend to fail when reality goes kool-aid man on that sort of thing and generally once any and all mystic and cultural significance vanish from farming, people left in droves if they were able to (like when farming mechanization came along during the Industrial Revolution) and that doesn't always mean it was practical.

Humans tend to congregate where there is the most positive economic and safety outcomes and villages and towns and cities were the places where such outcomes were the most positive. Problem is that you'll have problems getting food if everyone starts congregating around villages, towns, and cities and no one works the fields. For most of history, the only way to ensure that food is on the table is to force people to farm at sword point, and that meant enslaving people or turning them into land-bound serfs with little military recourse.
Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 02:25am
More like they wouldn't have given it away at a price that would allow for non-farmers to do other tasks. You can't feed a military without tithes of food from serfs, nor could you feed the builders working on castles and churches. You wouldn't really be able to have the upper classes and without merchants, kings, and churches you'd never get technological advances.

There's a reason most medieval societies were so heavily stratified, be they western or eastern, and it boils down to ensuring that food was cheap for those that weren't a part of the village that grew it.
Historically, this is only a (one) major reason that pre-(mass adoption of) Gunpowder/Industrial societies/civilizations were so stratified, another is stability in more ways than one (be political, economic, or in our case food production).

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 02:47am

GrosseAdmiralFox wrote:
2019-02-06 02:40am
Historically, this is only a (one) major reason that pre-(mass adoption of) Gunpowder/Industrial societies/civilizations were so stratified, another is stability in more ways than one (be political, economic, or in our case food production).
I'd argue it's the most important one going back to when farming was first established. The guy who could best organize the people who did the actual work gained power and once you had a ruling class that was powerful enough to resist most challenges you could have stability. From there you could branch out to society and start thinking of civilization, but it all started with a class of people that didn't farm taking resources from the class that did farm.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by GrosseAdmiralFox » 2019-02-06 03:09am

Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 02:47am
I'd argue it's the most important one going back to when farming was first established. The guy who could best organize the people who did the actual work gained power and once you had a ruling class that was powerful enough to resist most challenges you could have stability. From there you could branch out to society and start thinking of civilization, but it all started with a class of people that didn't farm taking resources from the class that did farm.
True, but I only said that they're major reasons, not the sole reasons.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 03:16am

GrosseAdmiralFox wrote:
2019-02-06 03:09am
True, but I only said that they're major reasons, not the sole reasons.
Okay, it seems like we agree then.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Gandalf » 2019-02-06 07:31am

Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 02:37am
Would you give your labor away for free/cheap unless you were forced to?

Also, we can literally look at historical accounts of tax collection and peasant revolts to see how little they liked feeding the rest of the kingdom. You could argue that the rates were unfair and punitive, and often they were, but without cheap food to allow for a class with free time to contemplate and study you simply don't get major scientific or philosophical advances. How many leaps forward have ever come from the unwashed masses, especially in the days before literacy was common, now how many have come from the non-agrarian-classes with time to study?
I ask you to back up a point, and you instead come back with advocacy for a caste system?

Points for originality I guess.
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-06 08:04am

Serfdom was not equivalent to slavery.

There were other ancient civilizations beside Rome which did not practice slavery.

This thread is full of bad history.
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by ray245 » 2019-02-06 08:31am

Jub wrote:
2019-02-05 11:55pm
1) I think that the ancient world wouldn't have been able to survive without cheap sources of labor. One could argue that, while not outright slaves, that Serfs without freedom of movement or land rights were very close to slaves. So I think within the context of less advanced societies there was a need for cheap controlled manpower that modern society wouldn't find acceptable. Out and out slavery is obviously less defensible than enforced Serfdom, but I think that lacking so many modern rights, Serfs might count for your purposes.

2) All rights must be based on societies ability to grant and enforce rights. It would be all well and good for a medieval king to decree that nobody in his lands shall ever go hungry but lacking modern trade and farming techniques it would be impossible to make that happen. You also have to have the people on your side I doubt even an absolute monarch would have been able to grant full LGBT rights by decree in many ancient states, the church and likely the merchant classes wouldn't have stood for it and any such attempt would likely have lead to a change in kings post haste.
The idea that ancient societies won't be able to survive on cheap sources of labour is wrong in my opinion. It depends on the fertility of the land. The Nile delta for example is extremely fertile and productive that it can quite easily produce an agriculture surplus for export.

Some places might be more labour intensive than others.
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 11:11am

ray245 wrote:
2019-02-06 08:31am
The idea that ancient societies won't be able to survive on cheap sources of labour is wrong in my opinion. It depends on the fertility of the land. The Nile delta for example is extremely fertile and productive that it can quite easily produce an agriculture surplus for export.

Some places might be more labour intensive than others.
So we'd be stuck clinging to floodplains and the side's of recently active volcanoes then? That doesn't make a great case for the advancement of mankind as a technological species without some form of enforced caste system.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 11:12am

Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-06 07:31am
I ask you to back up a point, and you instead come back with advocacy for a caste system?

Points for originality I guess.
So you have no refutation then.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Gandalf » 2019-02-06 02:19pm

Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 11:12am
Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-06 07:31am
I ask you to back up a point, and you instead come back with advocacy for a caste system?

Points for originality I guess.
So you have no refutation then.
Refutation to what? Your post made claims and you never backed them up when asked.
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by GrosseAdmiralFox » 2019-02-06 03:28pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-06 08:04am
Serfdom was not equivalent to slavery.

There were other ancient civilizations beside Rome which did not practice slavery.

This thread is full of bad history.
Those were rare and far in between and there is the fact that slavery was more than what it became in the American South. Practically every ancient civilization practiced a variant of slavery or serfdom because as I and Jeb explained, you couldn't get cheap enough food for anything more than a village at best with the tech they had available. Even the 'democratic' Greek city-states practiced slavery in one form or another (hell, it is the reason for Sparta's extreme militarization and the type of militarization they had, they ran into the problem of having less non-slaves than slaves and had semi-regular slave rebellions).

You forget that for most of human history, farming was done willingly by a small percentage of people despite the fact that you need upwards of 90% of people in the fields to farm (and historically for most of civilization, he who manages their farmers the best became king/nobility/leaders). Civilizations the world over have tried to put cultural and later economic incentives to farming to increase the willing number but that wasn't successful in the long run.
ray245 wrote:
2019-02-06 08:31am
The idea that ancient societies won't be able to survive on cheap sources of labour is wrong in my opinion. It depends on the fertility of the land. The Nile delta for example is extremely fertile and productive that it can quite easily produce an agriculture surplus for export.

Some places might be more labour intensive than others.
Actually, it is human nature to find ways to make labor cheaper, either by creating tools to make it easier or by forcing other humans to do it for free (or practically free). For most of history, the latter was the only available option as many of the tools we have in our agricultural tool box requires advanced sciences and tools that weren't able to be viable in ancient times.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 03:51pm

Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-06 02:19pm
Refutation to what? Your post made claims and you never backed them up when asked.
I thought that the economic model of the middle ages was common knowledge, but I guess your education in history is lacking. My previous musings are supported by Oppenheimer and Olson, and likely others, but medieval socioeconomics is hardly an area of my expertise. Pray tell where your own confidence and opinions on the matter come from and cite your own sources if you disagree with mine.

https://fee.org/articles/lords-and-serf ... al-europe/
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At least two sociologists argue that the modern state came about because of the exploitation of the serfs by ruling classes. We can argue about the morality of the modern state but I doubt you're educated enough to argue against trained sociologists who argue for exploitation of the lowest classes being essential to the rise of the modern state.
"The distinguishing aspect of the Lord of the Manor was that he was both political leader and economic employer, and the two roles were not considered separate. As the French historian, Marc Bloch, explained in his book, The Feudal Society (1939),

--The lord did not merely draw from his peasants valuable revenues and an equally valuable labor force. Not only was he rentier of the soil and beneficiary of the services; he was also a judge, often – if he did his duty – protector, and always a chief, whom apart from any more binding and more personal tie, to whom those who “held” their land from him or lived on his land were bound, by a very general but very real obligation, to help and obey.

Thus, the seigneurie was not simply an economic enterprise by which profits accumulated in a strong man’s hands. It was also a unit of authority, in the widest sense of the word; for the powers of the chief were not confined, as in principle they are in capitalist enterprises, to work done on his “business premises,” but affected a man’s whole life and acted concurrently with, or even in place of, the power of the state and the family.

Like all higher organized social cells, the seigneurie had its own law, as a rule customary, which determined the relations of the subjects with the lord and defined precisely the limits of the little group on which these traditional rules were binding.--"
This shows the method by which society formed around the relationship between serf and lord. Once again we can argue about the ongoing effects of these systems, but the basis of all modern society and thus modern western rights come from these roots. They come from the lack of rights owed to one class allowing others to pursue lines of thought that lead to the advancement of all mankind.

As a refutation of the point that a serf was not a slave,
"The villeins, or serfs, were born on the land and lived out their lives there. Few ever traveled more than 30 miles from their birthplace. If a Feudal Lord were to sell one of his manors to another Nobleman, it included not only the land, livestock, and working tools, but the serfs on the land as well.

The only escape from serfdom on the Manor was to successfully go to and hide in one of the Medieval walled cities for one year and a day. After that, the villein, or serf, was considered a “free man.” Thus, in the Middle Ages it was said, “City air makes you free.”"
No man which can be bought and sold and which is tied to one place for his entire life can be said to be free. Though not a slave by strict definition it's hard to argue that modern society wouldn't call state sponsored serfdom slavery today.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by ray245 » 2019-02-06 06:04pm

Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 11:11am
So we'd be stuck clinging to floodplains and the side's of recently active volcanoes then? That doesn't make a great case for the advancement of mankind as a technological species without some form of enforced caste system.
We are able to do so by building canals and all sort of ways to improve agriculture productivity. But the idea that having some sort of enforced caste system is the only way to develop a civilisation is wrong in my opinion.

The vast majority of agriculture produce in the Roman world was not done by slaves. You don't want an empire built merely on slavery, because it is far easier to extract taxation from freeholders than to get it from powerful aristocrats.
GrosseAdmiralFox wrote:
2019-02-06 03:28pm
Actually, it is human nature to find ways to make labor cheaper, either by creating tools to make it easier or by forcing other humans to do it for free (or practically free). For most of history, the latter was the only available option as many of the tools we have in our agricultural tool box requires advanced sciences and tools that weren't able to be viable in ancient times.
How about some actual sources for this instead of relying on mere assumptions ( or common sense). You can force people to work, but only to a certain degree. And it's not like slaves are necessarily cheap to own either. A slave owner still needs to make sure the slaves are healthy enough to actually work. Slaves aren't free labour. There is still cost involved, even if you don't pay them a wage.

Slavery is primarily about a bonded contract, in which a person aren't free to leave and find work elsewhere. It does not mean most owners can somehow afford to work a slave to death and simply replace him or her with another at no cost to themselves. Someone still had to do the enslaving job (primarily by the means of warfare).And that's not something cheap.
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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 06:15pm

ray245 wrote:
2019-02-06 06:04pm
We are able to do so by building canals and all sort of ways to improve agriculture productivity. But the idea that having some sort of enforced caste system is the only way to develop a civilisation is wrong in my opinion.

The vast majority of agriculture produce in the Roman world was not done by slaves. You don't want an empire built merely on slavery, because it is far easier to extract taxation from freeholders than to get it from powerful aristocrats.
We've seen successful empires built on serfdom and enforced servitude to a local lord. I've found sociologists that argue that the caste system is responsible for the rise of the nation-state as we know it. Unless you can refute their works, quoted in a post addressed to Gandalf, you're just speculating.

As for extracting tax, that's less important in ancient times than extracting food and labour. When 80-90% of your population must farm to feed everybody it is vital to extract that food from them as cheaply as possible to fuel the creation of classes who can focus on matters beyond just keeping everybody fed. You simply can't advance when food costs are too high and expansion of farmland is too expensive.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by GrosseAdmiralFox » 2019-02-06 06:24pm

ray245 wrote:
2019-02-06 06:04pm
We are able to do so by building canals and all sort of ways to improve agriculture productivity. But the idea that having some sort of enforced caste system is the only way to develop a civilisation is wrong in my opinion.
Which goes against human history. Hell, Rome was an anomaly in that regard in that a freeman could climb the ranks to become an economic and/or social elite by blood, sweat, tears, luck, and good business sense. Most civilizations utilized some sort of caste system (how tight and loose depended on the culture and civilization in question) until industrialization started getting traction and the question of productivity trumped over the question of stability.
The vast majority of agriculture produce in the Roman world was not done by slaves. You don't want an empire built merely on slavery, because it is far easier to extract taxation from freeholders than to get it from powerful aristocrats.
You are true, to a certain extent and more specifically the early days of Rome. By the time of the Gracchi Brothers, the majority of the irritable and productive farmland was owned by the rich slave owners (who basically subverted then outright ignored a law designed specifically to stop this sort of thing) and an increasingly large amount of the farming activity was not done by freemen but by slaves. Since freemen farmers could not compete with the vast estates of a growing slave plutocracy, freemen flocked to the cities of Rome. This also coincides with Rome abandoning it's 'take conquest slow' ideology (to give an example, Rome took a good century just to get to the Bay of Naples back in it's early years before it became all of Italy) and practically eternal conflict.

This was also not helped with Caesar and his successors getting cheap grain from Egypt (who utilized a rather strict caste system) and used the Nile as one of the bread baskets of the Roman Empire.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by ray245 » 2019-02-06 07:34pm

Jub wrote:
2019-02-06 06:15pm
We've seen successful empires built on serfdom and enforced servitude to a local lord. I've found sociologists that argue that the caste system is responsible for the rise of the nation-state as we know it. Unless you can refute their works, quoted in a post addressed to Gandalf, you're just speculating.
I'm wary of sociologist trying to explain historical change and development. In my personal experience, sociologists don't necessarily make good historians. For example, they cited Marc Bloch as their source.

Yes. Marc Bloch's Feudal society is one of the most important historical work done on the medieval period, but his work is not without any major challenge by other historians. Many historians have questioned Bloc for ignoring the regional variation that exist and imposing an almost universal system of understanding the medieval society. A number of more recent historians have questioned whether we can even use the term "feudalism" as a useful historical terminology.
"The distinguishing aspect of the Lord of the Manor was that he was both political leader and economic employer, and the two roles were not considered separate. As the French historian, Marc Bloch, explained in his book, The Feudal Society (1939),

--The lord did not merely draw from his peasants valuable revenues and an equally valuable labor force. Not only was he rentier of the soil and beneficiary of the services; he was also a judge, often – if he did his duty – protector, and always a chief, whom apart from any more binding and more personal tie, to whom those who “held” their land from him or lived on his land were bound, by a very general but very real obligation, to help and obey.

Thus, the seigneurie was not simply an economic enterprise by which profits accumulated in a strong man’s hands. It was also a unit of authority, in the widest sense of the word; for the powers of the chief were not confined, as in principle they are in capitalist enterprises, to work done on his “business premises,” but affected a man’s whole life and acted concurrently with, or even in place of, the power of the state and the family.

Like all higher organized social cells, the seigneurie had its own law, as a rule customary, which determined the relations of the subjects with the lord and defined precisely the limits of the little group on which these traditional rules were binding.--"
Marc Block wrote his book in 1939. That itself should make you wary about how much actual work these sociologists have studied about the medieval world. It's like non psychologists citing Freud as a valid modern source, without taking into account all the discussions and arguments made against it.

The idea that the lord of a manor was both the landlord and their judge has been questioned by later historian, such as François Louis Ganshof.

Did the grant of a fief necessarily carry with it the grant of the right of 'justice'?...With a remarkable understanding of the real essence of feudal
institutions, the majority of jurists who in the course of the last centuries of the Ancien Regime in France put themselves this question, answered it in the negative. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Antoine Loisel declared that ' fief, jurisdiction and " justice " have nothing in common and this phrase, repeated after him by other lawyers, became in time an accepted legal maxim. This was true not only for France. There was nothing in the relationships of feudalism, whether considered from the personal or from the property standpoint, which required that a vassal receiving investiture of a fief should necessarily have the profits of jurisdiction within it, nor even that he should exercise such jurisdiction on behalf of the lord or of a higher authority.
François Louis Ganshof, Feudalism, (1952), pp. 141

Sociologists are at the mercy of historians and our historical debates when they want to discuss history. I disagree with the idea that modern western state was founded from the feudal society as a primarily basis. Successful empires by and large want to avoid being feudalistic because it weakens the central authority of the state. Successful empires tend to be non-feudalistic. Feudalism is generally a sign of an polity that has weak central authority. The rise of the modern nation-state has far more to do with the military revolution than medieval "feudal" polities and modes of production.



As for extracting tax, that's less important in ancient times than extracting food and labour. When 80-90% of your population must farm to feed everybody it is vital to extract that food from them as cheaply as possible to fuel the creation of classes who can focus on matters beyond just keeping everybody fed. You simply can't advance when food costs are too high and expansion of farmland is too expensive.
You do know that taxes can be paid in agriculture produce? Extracting food is a form of taxation. From what I've seen so far you're having a very modernist understanding of history, which is rather full of assumptions and misunderstanding.


GrosseAdmiralFox wrote:
2019-02-06 06:24pm
Which goes against human history. Hell, Rome was an anomaly in that regard in that a freeman could climb the ranks to become an economic and/or social elite by blood, sweat, tears, luck, and good business sense. Most civilizations utilized some sort of caste system (how tight and loose depended on the culture and civilization in question) until industrialization started getting traction and the question of productivity trumped over the question of stability.
A number of Chinese dynasties was founded by lowly ranked peasants. Even the idea of a caste system as we understood it in India was largely a by-product of British colonialism.

You are true, to a certain extent and more specifically the early days of Rome. By the time of the Gracchi Brothers, the majority of the irritable and productive farmland was owned by the rich slave owners (who basically subverted then outright ignored a law designed specifically to stop this sort of thing) and an increasingly large amount of the farming activity was not done by freemen but by slaves. Since freemen farmers could not compete with the vast estates of a growing slave plutocracy, freemen flocked to the cities of Rome. This also coincides with Rome abandoning it's 'take conquest slow' ideology (to give an example, Rome took a good century just to get to the Bay of Naples back in it's early years before it became all of Italy) and practically eternal conflict.
And this system did not last all the way till the end of the Roman empire.
By the beginning of the second century AD, however, this type of estate organization in Italy was giving away to another type, one that was probably more representative of the empire in general...During this period, most of the sites identified by archaeologists as villas were abandoned or transformed. Many richly adorned villas were replaced by far more modest residences...But the decline of the villa system in Italy is is not likely to have been the product of a "crisis" in the slave mode of production, with the numbers of slaves gradually exceeding the capacity of Roman landowners to supervise them effectively. Rather, the increased competition from the provinces and changes in the rural population in Italy eroded the comparative advantage that the Roman landowners gained from employing large number of slaves in a concentrated fashion.
Dennis P. Kehoe, "The Early Roman Empire: Production" in The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World, pp. 555

This was also not helped with Caesar and his successors getting cheap grain from Egypt (who utilized a rather strict caste system) and used the Nile as one of the bread baskets of the Roman Empire.
Source for this claim?
Humans are such funny creatures. We are selfish about selflessness, yet we can love something so much that we can hate something.

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Re: On the morality of slavery and the effects of technology on civil rights.

Post by Jub » 2019-02-06 08:32pm

ray245 wrote:
2019-02-06 07:34pm
I'm wary of sociologist trying to explain historical change and development. In my personal experience, sociologists don't necessarily make good historians. For example, they cited Marc Bloch as their source.

Yes. Marc Bloch's Feudal society is one of the most important historical work done on the medieval period, but his work is not without any major challenge by other historians. Many historians have questioned Bloc for ignoring the regional variation that exist and imposing an almost universal system of understanding the medieval society. A number of more recent historians have questioned whether we can even use the term "feudalism" as a useful historical terminology.
Obviously, in more fertile regions things will look different than classical western feudalism. The concept of serfdom is only important where it takes 80% or more of your population working to feed your society. In areas where crop fertility is high or you have a better base grain than wheat (Eygpt, the Fertile Crescent, China) you're going to see different social structures emerge because the food is less important.

That level of fertility is almost akin to a new technology and would obviously make for a more progressive society.
Marc Block wrote his book in 1939. That itself should make you wary about how much actual work these sociologists have studied about the medieval world. It's like non psychologists citing Freud as a valid modern source, without taking into account all the discussions and arguments made against it.

The idea that the lord of a manor was both the landlord and their judge has been questioned by later historian, such as François Louis Ganshof.
Even if the lord wasn't ultimately the judge his power would heavily influence which laws were passed and enforced. The powerful in any society have an outsized role in forming policy that's just that nature of society.

Did the grant of a fief necessarily carry with it the grant of the right of 'justice'?...With a remarkable understanding of the real essence of feudal
institutions, the majority of jurists who in the course of the last centuries of the Ancien Regime in France put themselves this question, answered it in the negative. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Antoine Loisel declared that ' fief, jurisdiction and " justice " have nothing in common and this phrase, repeated after him by other lawyers, became in time an accepted legal maxim. This was true not only for France. There was nothing in the relationships of feudalism, whether considered from the personal or from the property standpoint, which required that a vassal receiving investiture of a fief should necessarily have the profits of jurisdiction within it, nor even that he should exercise such jurisdiction on behalf of the lord or of a higher authority.
The 17th century is well past the period I'm talking about. Technology had already begun to shift people away from the fields as less labor was required per ton of food. I'm restricting my assertion to periods and areas where 80% or more of the population was required to farm to keep everybody fed.
Sociologists are at the mercy of historians and our historical debates when they want to discuss history. I disagree with the idea that modern western state was founded from the feudal society as a primarily basis. Successful empires by and large want to avoid being feudalistic because it weakens the central authority of the state. Successful empires tend to be non-feudalistic. Feudalism is generally a sign of an polity that has weak central authority. The rise of the modern nation-state has far more to do with the military revolution than medieval "feudal" polities and modes of production.
And yet modern states rose from feudal powers and the struggle for power is part of the reason for the technological advancement of the west at a rate unmatched by other world powers. Strife, not solely caused by feudalism but which feudalism contributed to, bred advances in Europe that simply didn't happen in other regions. Then using that power Europe spread their systems all over the world as they took on the role of colonizers in a way which was unprecidented in human history.

While one can't say that any single factor lead to the west rising to dominance for a period of centuries I'd argue that it was a large factor.
You do know that taxes can be paid in agriculture produce? Extracting food is a form of taxation. From what I've seen so far you're having a very modernist understanding of history, which is rather full of assumptions and misunderstanding.
Taxes can also be taken in the form of labor which is primarily what the feudal system extracted from the serf class. They worked the lord's lands first, then their own lands, and still they paid taxes from the produce that their land's produced. Essentially they were twice taxed first for labor and second for the product of that labor.

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