In history slavery did exist in physical form. In those days common men were forced to serve the higher class because of lack of knowledge, wisdom and education; and in return what they got was a meager wage that would feed them enough to serve them throughout their lifetime.

Nowadays knowledge, wisdom and education are pretty widespread. But doesn't the same exist in 21st Century in mental form? Aren't we slaves to big firms for a salary that feeds us enough to serve them throughout our life?

Though the nations today have become secular and independent, but can we use the same adjectives for its citizens? Do we even realize this?

The image says it all:

  • 2
    I'm not sure how under this definition mere existence wouldn't be slavery (we must eat, breathe, etc.); can you clarify?
    – Rex Kerr
    Sep 25, 2014 at 18:27
  • If working for a living is slavery, then the only way to be free is to enslave others (or move out of society and enslave yourself by forcing yourself to constantly work to feed yourself). Sep 25, 2014 at 18:47
  • @ProfessorFluffy Not quite: I don't agree that wage labor amounts to slavery. But even if one held that view self employment or syndicates would offer means of escape.
    – Drux
    Sep 25, 2014 at 18:56
  • 1
    Slavery does exist. Though, what you are describing is not slavery, as in the actual definition of the word.
    – user9207
    Sep 25, 2014 at 19:56
  • 3
    Your question is not really on-topic for philosophy and will tend to generate extended discussion over the definition of "slavery", which you've realized can be modified to suit one's own needs (for making an argument). So yes, simply altering the definition of "slavery" can make it applicable to many societies today, but this site is not for discussing these things — whether people still spank their children today or whether most Germans prefer "true" Nutella over the generic brand today, these things, along with 'whether slavery exists today' are not questions philosophy attempts to answer.
    – stoicfury
    Sep 26, 2014 at 1:08

2 Answers 2


Apart from "slavery in a mental form" the description (and for what I remember, also the back cover) of Kevin Bales' book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy argues that "more than twenty-seven million people are still trapped in [slavery]" (mostly) of the conventional kind.

Slavery is illegal throughout the world, yet more than twenty-seven million people are still trapped in one of history's oldest social institutions. Kevin Bales's disturbing story of slavery today reaches from brick kilns in Pakistan and brothels in Thailand to the offices of multinational corporations. His investigation of conditions in Mauritania, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, and India reveals the tragic emergence of a "new slavery," one intricately linked to the global economy. The new slaves are not a long-term investment as was true with older forms of slavery, explains Bales. Instead, they are cheap, require little care, and are disposable.


Check out U. Wash David Levy's Google Tech Talk No Time to Think (pdf). I especially suggest a book to which he refers, Josef Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Pieper warns of the notion of "total work", which I think connects to your idea of "mental slavery". Pieper wrote the German form of Leisure in Germany in 1948, during reconstruction. He was worried that the Germans would get locked into a world of "total work", and have no time for what he calls "leisure"—which is not to be confused with popping open a beer, plopping down on the couch, and turning on one's favorite professional sports. He anticipated the objection that the Germans needed to work really hard now, and could enjoy their fruits—including leisure—after they had finished rebuilding. Allan Bloom describes this as having happened to the West—specifically, America—in The Closing of the American Mind:

As Western nations became more prosperous, leisure, which had been put off for several centuries in favor of the pursuit of property, the means to leisure, finally began to be of primary concern. But, in the meantime, any notion of the serious life of leisure, as well as men’s taste and capacity to live it, had disappeared. Leisure became entertainment. The end for which they had labored for so long has turned out to be amusement, a justified conclusion if the means justify the ends. (77)

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