Southern slaveholders proudly pronounced themselves orthodox Christians, who accepted responsibility for the welfare of the people who worked for them. They proclaimed that their slaves enjoyed a better and more secure life than any laboring class in the world. Now, did it not follow that the lives of laborers of all races across the world would be immeasurably improved by their enslavement? In the Old South but in no other slave society a doctrine emerged among leading clergymen, politicians, and intellectuals - 'Slavery in the Abstract', which declared enslavement the best possible condition for all labor regardless of race. They joined the Socialists, whom they studied, in believing that the free-labor system, wracked by worsening class warfare, was collapsing. A vital question: to what extent did the people of the several social classes of the South accept so extreme a doctrine? That question lies at the heart of this book.
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (1941-2007) was Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities at Emory University, where she was founding director of Women's Studies. She served on the Governing Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2002-2008). In 2003, President George Bush awarded her with a National Humanities Medal; the Georgia State senate honored her with a special resolution of appreciation for her contributions as a scholar, teacher, and citizen of Georgia; and the fellowship of Catholic Scholars bestowed on her its Cardinal Wright Award. Among her books and published lectures are: The Origins of Pysiocracy: Economic Revolution and Social Order in Eighteenth-Century France; Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South; and Feminism without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism. Eugene D. Genovese is a retired professor of history. Among his books are Roll, Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made; The Slaveholders' Dilemma: southern Conservative Thought 1820-1860; and A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South. Fox-Genovese and Genovese co-authored Fruits of Merchant capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism, and The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders' Worldview. In 2004 the Intercollegiate Studies Institute presented them jointly with its Gerhard Niemeyer Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scholarship in the Liberal Arts.
1. The impending collapse of capitalism; 2. Hewers of wood, drawers of water; 3. Travelers to the south, southerners abroad; 4. The squaring of circles; 5. The appeal to social theory; 6. Perceptions and realities.