Archive for the ‘The Universal Template’ Category

The Core Roman Institution

It would be most gratifying if novels and films set in Ancient Rome would condescend to deal with one of the bedrock social structures of that civilisation. Not even the 2006 BBC/HBO series quite managed to clarify it, excellent as it otherwise was at illuminating both the sordid aspects of Roman life glossed over by […]

Yo’ Ma Bitch: Towards A Unified Terminology

Instead of learning solely about the civic institutions that form the outer shell or façade of human politics, pol-sci students ought perhaps to be taught about the heart of the matter, the bottom-line, the universal core principle of all human societies larger than the hunter-gatherer band: namely the relationship between patron and client. I would […]

Slavery, A Special Case Of Patronage

We have been accustomed to think of slavery as a unique and special institution, quite distinct from free labour. The moment that clientship to a patron is recognised as a human universal, however, we may begin to wonder whether what we call slavery is not better described as a special case. In any large and […]

Slaves And Serfs, A False Distinction

Everybody knows that the Romans had “slaves” while the medievals had “serfs”, and that this was an important distinction. Unfortunately, it is not certain that the medievals themselves were aware of it; for the Middle French word “serf” is simply the Classical Latin servus. For this reason, the modern English adjectives meaning “pertaining to a […]

Slaves At The Top

English-speaking people who think about the past concept of “nobility” tend to assume three groups: nobles, free commoners and serfs or slaves. Many societies have, however, operated with only two categories, namely the free and the unfree, where free and noble is the same thing. In medieval Germany, for example, the noble was called Freiherr, […]

A Proxy Measurement For Slavery

People have imagined that marrying for money is something to do with a wicked thing by the name of Patriarchy. In fact, marrying for money is the inevitable consequence of the invention of property, and men and women who have property behave exactly the same as one another and differently from men and women without […]

Terms And Conditions

If, as we saw, a person called by his own society by the names of “serf” or “slave” might in fact be merely what we would call an employee, the contrary might seem to follow, that a person whom we call employee might be called by other societies a serf or slave. We have our […]