Thursday, June 02, 2011

More from Coates

He's been reading George Fitzhugh, a pro-slavery writer of the pre-Civil War era who thought most white people (but presumably not himself) would be better off as slaves than as "free workers."  In discussing this Coates makes this striking point:
The value in Fitzhugh writing is, for me, first and for most its sheer beauty. The metaphor of free market capitalism as cannibalism is provocative and interesting, if not particularly convincing. His enstranged usage of voice--"we" instead of "I"--and his sampling of other primary sources make for a messy work of a literature, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

But more than that, Fitzhugh unwittingly explains the difference between a society that tolerates slavery (New York in the 1820s, for instance) and a society where slavery is the dominant system of labor (South Carolina circa 1850. for instance.) As a country, we've yet to come to grips with the fact that Mississippi was not merely a place where black people were in slaves, but a police state where the majority of its population was enslaved. By understanding that difference we start to get how a War could be fought over slavery.

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