The extent, importance, and meaning of debt slavery
The phenomenon of debt slavery has either been greatly underestimated or, on the contrary, overestimated through confusion with other ways of dealing with the debtor, putting him “in pawn”, for instance, or the possibility of reimbursing debt through labor. After carefully defining debt slavery, the article shows how widespread it has been, and explains its social significance as follows : inequalities between rich and poor, already present in most primitive societies, may be redefined in terms of masters and slaves. The transformation, or threatened transformation, of a debtor into a slave considerably strengthens the powers of the dominant. The article concludes with a hypothesis about the origins of the state.