Re: [OPE-L] Inter-species slavery- was marx's conception of labour

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Nov 22 2006 - 13:23:32 EST

>Rakesh, you are of course right in pointing out that human slaves are of
>the same species as the slave holder whereas in ants the species differ.
>This is almost certainly a testimony to our more sophisticated brains
>which allow us to remember or record that certain individuals are
>slaves. In the ant case, presumably some mechanism relating to smell
>that would otherwise be used to differentiate between own and other
>species for defensive purposes has been co-opted to allow discrimination
>between master and slave species.
>However, I wonder exactly what significance should be attached to this
>species difference.

As David Brion Davis points out,  it was only with the Neolithic
revolution (some ten thousand years ago) that sheep, cattle, pigs,
horses, goats and other social animals were domesticated,
consequently undergoing an evolutionary process called neoteny, or
progressive juvenilization. Slaves however have never be held long
enough to undergo neoteny. Jerry is right however that many mammals
have successfully resisted domestication. See Inhuman Bondage 32-33.

>On the one hand we have ample evidence that in slave holding societies,
>the ruling classes analogized their 'labouring servants and labouring
>Both were captives bent to the wills of their masters.
>On the other hand, the fact that slavery in the USA occurred between
>races of the human species rather than between species, is, in the end,
>probably just historical accident and lack of opportunity.

There are no races of the human species.

>We now know that for most of the pre-history of homo, there co-existed
>several hominid species on the earth. The little homo-florensis seems to
>have survived until perhaps 10,000 years ago, homo-neanderthalis until
>around 30,000 years ago. It seems as much happenstance as anything else,
>that that development of husbandry and agriculture which were themselves
>preconditions for the establishment of the 'peculiar institution', did
>not arise in the previous rather than this interglacial epoch. Had that
>occurred, and had early cro-magnons mastered agriculture and the
>domestication of animals, would they then have refrained from enslaving
>their Neanderthal or Erectus cousins?

And that may have had some features of human slavery--continuous
compulsion, the master's goal of conspicuous consumption, sexual
pleasure???who knows???; ant slavery does not

>Would the relationship of exploitation been any less had it been
>Neanderthals rather than Negros who were enslaved?

>The Neanderthals, though generally assumed to be a distinct species,
>shared with us a very similar bodily form. They were able to make wooden
>and stone tools. Whether they spoke is a matter of conjecture. They had
>a more powerful physique than us. With these features they sound as if
>they would have made excellent slaves.
>  One can picture how the ruling classes in such an alternate reality
>would have readily justified their exploitation by pointing out that
>these brutes were not our species, and had indeed been placed on earth
>by a provident deity to be our servants.
>In this case we would have an exact functional analogue of ant slavery.
>The similarity of bodily form and nervous system between H. sapiens and
>H. neanderthalis, and between L. duloticus  and  L. curvispinosus has
>besides an economic significance that would distinguish the hypothetical
>and actual relationships respectively, from mere domestication. In
>domestication, the servant species is not a full substitute for the
>labouring capacities of the masters, whereas in the case of slavery they
>Strong though she may be, potentially artistic as she may be, the
>labouring potential of a cow elephant is confined to activities like
>forestry and quarrying. She can scarcely lend her trunk to weaving or
>bricklaying. A slave, on the other hand, has a labouring potential as
>adaptable as her master. Any branch of activity formerly performed by
>the masters, could be assigned her. This property the ant slaves share
>with human slaves. Their labour is an accurate substitute for that of
>their masters.
>My intention in originally raising these issues, is not to say that
>there is no difference between the labour of humans and that of animals.
>It is to try and understand what makes labour possible at all. How is it
>possible for any species, by bodily activity to modify its environment?

But what is distinctive to human labor? Imagination. Imagination is
also the key to our amazing capacity for "self transcendence and
rational analysis--for viewing ourselves from a vantage point outside
the self and for imagining what it would be like to someone else."
Davis, p. 33

We are the imaginative species.

Which means that the human slave can understood how she is understood
by her master.


>What is the role of information in this?
>Both evanescent information, which springs momentarily into existence in
>nervous systems, and persistent information passed between individuals,
>generations and machines?
>-----Original Message-----
>From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Rakesh Bhandari
>Sent: 22 November 2006 02:42
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour
>>On Mon, 20 Nov 2006, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>>>Marks dismisses the description of social insect slavery as only
>>>analogical in the strict biological sense.
>>What do you suppose Marks meant by that?  I hope, more than that
>>Leptothorax duloticus don't have bullwhips or drink mint juleps,
>>and that L. curvispinosus don't live in cabins and play the banjo.
>Hopes dashed. He does not mean more than that, for after all
>entomology tells us no more about the enslavement of the Middle
>Passage than it can about the enslavement of iron fillings by a
>magnet. Marks, p. 104 What It Means to be 98% Chimpanzee.
>Also know whether the L. curvispinosus are captured in an immature
>state and hatch later only
>to be domesticated to perform 'housekeeping tasks' without
>compulsion. But then that is domestication not slave making. Also
>with us humans polygenesis has been discredited under the weight of
>continuous, albeit often illegal, interbreeding. That is to say, pace
>Louis Agassiz, human slavery involves members of one's own species
>under continued compulsion. This case of ant "slavery" does not fit.
>It's just a weak and meaningless analogy. Even from a functional
>point of view. There is certainly no homology in a biological sense.
>I did not know that there were Marxists who subscribed to EO Wilson's
>sociobiology rather than the critique of it--as for example by the
>Sociobiology Study Group of the Science for the People from which
>above critique is drawn. Availabe through JSTOR.
>I also think he makes a good case for why non human animals don't have
>>[The ant Leptothorax duloticus is known as a "slavemaker" and
>>studies have shown that the "enslaved" L. curvispinosus suffer
>>fitness costs such as "significant reductions in dealate queens,
>>workers, and larvae relative to control colonies exclosed without
>>slavemakers" ("Prudent Protomognathus and despotic Leptothorax
>>duloticus: Differential costs of ant slavery", J. F.
>>Hare and T. M. Alloway, Proceedings of the National Academy of
>>Sciences of the United States of America, October 9, 2001).]
>>Allin Cottrell

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