Henry Patterson Theory

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Patterson diverges from the common model of seeing slavery as an economic system and instead argues that slavery, at its core, is founded under the multifaceted idea of power and its social and political implications. Meaning that instead of focusing on a ‘property’ centered definition of slavery, he focuses on three conditions of oppression that ultimately collapsed to create a ‘socially dead’ person. He argues that first, violence had to be implemented to gain control of the slave, this was a tool to create and maintain the idea of domination. The second condition was a complete excommunicated from “all ‘rights’ or claims of birth,” the slave “ceased to belong to any legitimate social order.” In other words, the slave became a socially alienated…show more content…
He is able to grapple with close analysis of multiple slave owning societies, and is able to find general ways in which to fit slavery as a general phenomenon. However, this proves to be his greatest fault, being too general in his definition, he loses sight of what he is arguing for, and ultimately falls in the same trap other authors he critiques have fallen into. In his book, Patterson states that “in all societies… there is a distinction between what is actually going on and the mental structures that attempt to define and explain the reality.” I believe that Patterson overstates his claim by placing the slave as a still body that only exists socially through his master. I agree with the fact that civically the slave was a non-person. The slave could not own property, and any claims to social ties between slaves were never recognized by the…show more content…
This is where I believe Patterson’s argument fails. He blindly follows the slave master’s goal, and assumes that they were successful. actuality. He not only condescendingly takes whatever agency the slaves had during that time, but he completely ignores records of lived experiences of slavery. He ignores the fact that for many slaves, like Raboteau and others have argued, religion was a form of rebelliousness, a source of moral high ground, and a means to be socially recognized. For example, Raboteau brings to light instances in which, “in the fervor of religious worship, master and slave, white and black, could be found sharing a common event, profession a common faith and experiencing a common ecstasy.” The slaves under the faith of god were socially recognized by the wider system that was the Christian faith. But even more pressing is the example of black preachers being able to conduct religious services in which they would sway and inspire religious experiences inside black and white bodies alike. Raboteau provides us with an overwhelming number of examples that prove that slaves gained social standing using the symbols that their masters enacted to control them. My personal favorite is from a white lady named Parthenia Hague who after a service led by a black preacher said that
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