Human Worth: The Social Logic of Valuation in the History of Slavery and Beyond
For most of human history, conceiving of (some) humans only in terms of instrumental value (usually economic utility, often marketability) presented no conceptual problems to societies. Slavery dates back to early civilizations and only began to be challenged broadly in the late 18th century. An analysis of four different historical constellations shows that slavery rests on an underlying logic of status assignment (belonging to a specific type of ethical community); the respective processes of social valuation allow for humans to be understood only in terms of economic value. Sketching the cultural and institutional structures of status assignment in ancient Greece, at the beginning of transatlatic slavery (the Valladolid debate), during abolition and for contemporary world society, this analysis lends insight into the relation of the social and the economic as well as the functioning of illegal markets in general and specifically the persistance of slavery and the value of body capital today.