A Case for Ideological Slavery in the Workplace?

Rohan Walters

ID-- Businessman with hands chanined

The historic timelines for the abolition of slavery by two of our most dominant colonist is set out below.

1. In July 1833, a Bill to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire passed in the House of Commons, followed by the House of Lords on 1st August. There has been a lot of debate over the factors that contributed to the final success of the bill: The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was repealed in its entirety by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1998.

The repeal has not made slavery legal again, with sections of the Slave Trade Act 1824, Slave Trade Act 1843 and Slave Trade Act 1873 continuing in force.

2. Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln decrees that all slaves in Rebel territory are free on January 1, 1863. 1865 Slavery Abolished the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery.

A definition of slavery is not required here as we are all too versed in its’ scope and definition, suffice it to say though, that one of the striking elements of slavery is the element of “control” that the property owner exercised over his or her property/ chattel as it was classified then.

After and during the emancipation periods different types of non -slave work flourished. Servants working in the manor houses, field workers, indentured servants, apprenticeship arrangements, maids, agricultural workers, farmers, fruit pickers, cooks and such like.

According to an article published by the Maryland Trust where it highlighted the plight of the free workers just after slavery “New economic relationships were developed between planters and black laborers. On the surface, these arrangements appeared to provide laborers with the freedom to work their own land, while ensuring that planters continued to have enough labor to work the fields. However, in most cases, these arrangements were economically unfair: contracts were regularly abused, black laborers and their families were regularly kept in debt to their landlords, and the amount of work necessary to pay off that debt often restricted the ability for families to emerge from poverty.


In most cases, these arrangements were broken into three types of agreements: Wage Labor, Sharecropping, and Tenant Farming”.


It is estimated by www.notforsalecampaign.org, an abolitionist group, that some 30 million people are still enslaved worldwide today. We now fast track to the modern day work environment, with the proliferation of technology affecting and impacting how work is done and the conditions under which it is done, the issue of outsourcing, seasonal workers, part time workers, contract work, full-time work, consultancy, freelancing and all sorts of work related arrangements.

While not under any physical bondage the question is are we still enslaved, yet being free?

In responding the above question, I ask this question – why do people work?

We know it’s to survive to pay the bills, the rent, mortgage, send the children to school, acquire property, to eat, (of course we know that some people eat but yet don’t work) and the myriad of things we do with the unit of exchange.

Is the work driven by some extrinsic or intrinsic desire?

Is it a desire to serve, to make a difference, to change the status quo, to impact and effect change, to bring solutions or even to bring/effect changes in our spheres of influences?

I submit that most persons that engage in work, do so in the absence of the word servant hood or the desire to serve another or another’s interest.

Is the desire to work and for work to be linked or driven by the innate surge for self-esteem, self-actualisation or the desire to climb the corporate ladder?


The premise of ideological slavery in the workplace is based on the evidential matrix that is manifested and experienced, when for instance the Boss, Manager, Supervisor, CEO or the person in charge is not around, there is the sudden rush of adrenaline, workers spring into a frenzy of release, chatter, smiles, internet searches, trips to the bathrooms, kitchen, the often stops by a peers desk and so on.

The notion is not that some of these activities should not be done, albeit infrequently, it is the response of the workers that is examined, the almost freedom from the captors grasp, so I am now free to do as I really want, deep down on the inside, some may not even work, or be diligent, productive, careful, on time, wasteful, others pilfer their masters goods.


During slavery it was reported that the slaves would pounce at any opportunity to burn, steal or wreak havoc on the masters property, if and when they had the opportunity to do so.


The issue of servant hood is a word or expression which is not too welcome in our vocabulary and culture, notwithstanding the fact that we have migrated from an agro based industry, to one that is predominantly bed and breakfast and service oriented, still as a result of our ancestral past we slavishly used the expressions to serve, servant hood or servant as a mere catch phrase and selling point to market our selves or service, whether it is selling in a shop, working as a waitress/ waiter, working as civil servant, a banker or any other profession we fail to ascribe the beauty and value of what it means to be a true servant.


It is as a result of our prevailing paradigm that we have misapplied and misconstrued the role of one who serves and consequently relegated it to that of one who slaves or as we often say “I aint go slave off meself for you”. Expressions of this kind exposes a gaping hole in the framework and construct of our thinking system, and questions what constitute true liberation.


When we serve in fear of losing our jobs and not from the platform of sheer love for what we do and the love of service, then we still lack, when our sole reason for service is to climb the corporate ladder at the expense of everything and everyone else, as the house slaves treated the yard slaves then we are still deranged.


When we can only show up to work early when the boss is present then our fear is externally driven and we are merely operating from a very low base and scale of service.


The simple fact that workers steal the bosses time and pilfer resources shows that the employed person has not come into ownership of what they do, they view themselves as mere accessories to what they do and would revolt when the least opportunity present itself, are not these characteristics of an enslaved person?


The matter has to be further examined with the context of how the relationship is handled on both sides

1- How are employed person treated? Do they feel a part of the organization? Are they treated with a sense of dignity and respect? Is the work environment open to shared discussion/ or are shared views and opinions part of the organisational culture.


2- On the other hand are employers displaying behaviors that are devoid of discrimination, verbal abuse, the constant threats of losing one’s job, the almost manipulative feeling of a sense of dictatorial behavior?

Could it be said that if these manifestations are present in our work environments we may still exist in the shackles and fetters of entrenched psychological slavery?


The conclusion of the matter is that we can only be liberated when employers begin to treat their staff as equal and active partners in the growth and development of the enterprise and the discontinuance of dangling of the carrot and using the proverbial stick whereby their staff is beaten into subjection.


The employed person on the other hand has to traverse the longs walls of freedom in the workplace and not view service as servitude; instead service must be seen as the deliberate, conscious and unbridled efforts of bringing skill and expertise to bear in one’s area of discipline; the employed should be free in themselves to give of themselves freely, without coercion, without manipulation, as a matter of fact, true liberation can only be realized, when one give of and submit themselves to a cause that is greater than themselves, the work is just the occupational nexus or the casual link to the achievement of that common good.


It therefore means that the work does not define the worker, it does not say who you are, it is merely descriptive of a role or function, as the essence of the individual remains intact long after the work and even in the exercise of the task, the worker on the other hand brings definition and meaning to the work.


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