US capitalism and slavery? Watch

musicangel
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Hi, not sure if this is the correct area to post but was wondering if slavery was still around in the US when it became a capitalist country?
When did the US become capitalist?
Thanks
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conwy
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Depends how you define capitalism. If you define capitalism to mean anyone trading anything with anyone else, in any situation, on any kind of terms, then capitalism has been around practically everywhere at every time since before our species walked on two feet.

If you define capitalism a bit more precisely, to mean equal protection of individual rights, a government limited to only enforcing those rights and an otherwise completely free and unfettered market, it's arguable that capitalism has never existed, but the closest any country ever came to any real capitalism was North America in the 19th century (which still had anti-capitalist elements, such as central banking, government-sponsored monopolies, restriction on individual liberty, etc).

Slavery was more focussed in the backward Southern US states, while the North was more advanced, freer and more capitalist. That's not a pro-capitalist myth, it's simply fact (hint: look up the Underground Railroad and the American Civil war).
Last edited by conwy; 2 months ago
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musicangel
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(Original post by conwy)
Depends how you define capitalism. If you define capitalism to mean anyone trading anything with anyone else, in any situation, on any kind of terms, then capitalism has been around practically everywhere at every time since before our species walked on two feet.

If you define capitalism a bit more precisely, to mean equal protection of individual rights, a government limited to only enforcing those rights and an otherwise completely free and unfettered market, it's arguable that capitalism has never existed, but the closest any country ever came to any real capitalism was North America in the 19th century (which still had anti-capitalist elements, such as central banking, government-sponsored monopolies, restriction on individual liberty, etc).

Slavery was more focussed in the backward Southern US states, while the North was more advanced, freer and more capitalist. That's not a pro-capitalist myth, it's simply fact (hint: look up the Underground Railroad and the American Civil war).

I see - so with a more precise definition, would that mean having slavery and capitalism around at the same time (given that the US was divided between N and S) is incompatible and not possible?
Thank you!
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conwy
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(Original post by musicangel)
I see - so with a more precise definition, would that mean having slavery and capitalism around at the same time (given that the US was divided between N and S) is incompatible and not possible?
Thank you!
Short answer: yes.

I should have prefaced all of this by saying that I'm just some random guy on the Internet and I hardly claim to be an expert, e.g. historian.

But yeah, based on the definition of capitalism I gave, I can't see how slavery could exist within an actually capitalist system. You could have a society in which some people are slaves and others a free. But that's not capitalist, because A) the slaves, by definition of being slaves, are denied individual rights and liberty, B) the non-slaves who benefit from the use of slaves, in doing so, are violating the individual rights and liberty of the slaves. Therefore, it's not a free market for either side - either the slave or the non-slave.

But that's just me working it out using logic, based on a definition. I suppose some heavily credentialed historian / expert / academic may chime in soon to correct me for my terrible misreading of history and atrocious butchering of logic, and demonstrate that, in fact, capitalism created, aided and abetted slavery, that slaves preferred being in the south and the north had slavery too, that the US government did everything successfully and cheaply while the free market delivered nothing but failure and catastrophe, that freedom and tyranny are the same and indistinguishable, etc, etc. I would be interested to see how they prove all of the above in broad terms (not just cherry-picking borderline cases or exceptions to support their claim). But until then, I rest my case.
Last edited by conwy; 2 months ago
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musicangel
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Thank you so much - really appreciate all of your help

(Original post by conwy)
Short answer: yes.

I should have prefaced all of this by saying that I'm just some random guy on the Internet and I hardly claim to be an expert, e.g. historian.

But yeah, based on the definition of capitalism I gave, I can't see how slavery could exist within an actually capitalist system. You could have a society in which some people are slaves and others a free. But that's not capitalist, because A) the slaves, by definition of being slaves, are denied individual rights and liberty, B) the non-slaves who benefit from the use of slaves, in doing so, are violating the individual rights and liberty of the slaves. Therefore, it's not a free market for either side - either the slave or the non-slave.

But that's just me working it out using logic, based on a definition. I suppose some heavily credentialed historian / expert / academic may chime in soon to correct me for my terrible misreading of history and atrocious butchering of logic, and demonstrate that, in fact, capitalism created, aided and abetted slavery, that slaves preferred being in the south and the north had slavery too, that the US government did everything successfully and cheaply while the free market delivered nothing but failure and catastrophe, that freedom and tyranny are the same and indistinguishable, etc, etc. I would be interested to see how they prove all of the above in broad terms (not just cherry-picking borderline cases or exceptions to support their claim). But until then, I rest my case.
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Captain Haddock
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(Original post by conwy)
Short answer: yes.

I should have prefaced all of this by saying that I'm just some random guy on the Internet and I hardly claim to be an expert, e.g. historian.

But yeah, based on the definition of capitalism I gave, I can't see how slavery could exist within an actually capitalist system. You could have a society in which some people are slaves and others a free. But that's not capitalist, because A) the slaves, by definition of being slaves, are denied individual rights and liberty, B) the non-slaves who benefit from the use of slaves, in doing so, are violating the individual rights and liberty of the slaves. Therefore, it's not a free market for either side - either the slave or the non-slave.

But that's just me working it out using logic, based on a definition. I suppose some heavily credentialed historian / expert / academic may chime in soon to correct me for my terrible misreading of history and atrocious butchering of logic, and demonstrate that, in fact, capitalism created, aided and abetted slavery, that slaves preferred being in the south and the north had slavery too, that the US government did everything successfully and cheaply while the free market delivered nothing but failure and catastrophe, that freedom and tyranny are the same and indistinguishable, etc, etc. I would be interested to see how they prove all of the above in broad terms (not just cherry-picking borderline cases or exceptions to support their claim). But until then, I rest my case.
Based on a definition you made up. In the Atlantic slave trade, slave were literally capital; assets to be traded for on the free market. Capitalism is just an economic system. A society that believes humans can be private property can still be organised around a capitalist economy, and that's exactly what America was.
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musicangel
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(Original post by Captain Haddock)
Based on a definition you made up. In the Atlantic slave trade, slave were literally capital; assets to be traded for on the free market. Capitalism is just an economic system. A society that believes humans can be private property can still be organised around a capitalist economy, and that's exactly what America was.
I see. I was thinking about Marx's modes of production and the transition from slavery to feudalism to capitalism and was wondering if it was possible to have capitalism with slavery and to find a fault with his mode of production. Do you think that this would count or do you think that Marx's theory is still valid if it is predominantly capitalist but with some slavery for example?
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