Genovese veers to the right

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jul 18 11:37:09 MDT 1995

Louis Proyect:

Thoughtful comments from an old friend of mine who's not on the Marxism
list and who is involved professionally with computers.


In Roll Jorday Roll Genovese pointed out that the record of slave revolt
in the American South was relatively minor.  He then asked a question that
deserved asking at the time.  "Why, since slavery is such an evil and
inhuman system, were there not more slave revolts?"  A question that we
can certainly ask profitably about wage slavery.  He then went on to
analyze the system of represssion and reward in the unique instance of
slavery in the South.  He pointed out that it was the only slave society
in history where the slaves reproduced themselves.  He pointed to the
uncomfortable fact that the standard of living of Southern slaves was
higher than that of factory workers in Europe and equal to that of factory
workers in the North.  In Roll he did not glorify paternalism, he
explained it.  I remember the experience of reading that book very clearly
because I felt at the time that Genovese offered an insight, namely that
social reality is complex and so are the people who make it up.  An evil
social system is not purely evil.  It's filled with positive features that
allow it to continue to exist.  Slavery, bondage and wage slavery, offer
freedom from choice, little risk as long as you stay within the prescribed
bounds.  With our short lives and perilous mortality, those are powerful
incentives to accept whatever is given.


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