Domination and Slavery

Bernard Boxill

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Domination and Slavery

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In what way, and by how much, is the working man better off than the slave? Frederick Douglass argued that the difference might not be great. The slaveholders, he claimed, had succeeded in making the laboring white man “almost” as much a slave as the “black slave himself.” But some contemporary philosophical discussions go much further, suggesting that essentially the laboring white man and the black slave were both enslaved. For example, this is the clear implication of Philip Pettit's discussion of domination, freedom, and slavery in his book Republicanism (1997). Pettit calls a person's freedom “republican freedom,” marking it off from negative and positive liberty. As if to confirm that the republican tradition was right to equate domination and slavery, Pettit describes them as both characteristically condemning their victims to lives of fear, deference, flattery, and slyness. Since the most important and reliable of the strategies to deaden the slaves' imagination is to compel them to live in constant fear, there would be no difference between slavery and mere domination if domination per se made people fearful.

Keywords: Frederick Douglass; domination; slavery; imagination; fear; Philip Pettit; republican freedom

Article.  5158 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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