Capitalism as a Transformation of Slavery

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* Article: Graeber, David. Turning modes of production inside out: or, why capitalism is a transformation of slavery. Critique of Anthropology. 2006 Mar; 26(1):61–85.

Available from: (Accessed 2012 Feb 20. Archived by WebCite at


"Graeber makes a case that chattel slavery and capitalist wage slavery both extract surplus value in essentially the same way: by using violent coercion to separate the abstract labor capacity of human beings from the social context in which those human beings were themselves socially “produced” (born, socialized, and educated), so that their productive capacity can generate revenue for masters (slaveholders or capitalists) who did not contribute resources to their social production. Likewise, the social “production” of a human being continues throughout life, so that the detrimental effects of the degrading experiences of slave labor or wage labor can be viewed as a negative externality imposed by the masters. Graeber adduces evidence that in the ancient world the distinction between employment and slavery was viewed as tenuous, and long-term employment was seen as a degrading form of subordination to the will of another. In fact, most apparent long-term employment contracts in the ancient world were actually rental contracts for the services of slaves." (