Talk:Debt bondage

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No mention of Africa?[edit]

Debt bondage has existed in Africa for as long as anywhere else. It was the existing debt bondage system amongst Africans that Europeans tapped into in the cross-Atlantic trade. Is this some sort of PC revisionism to pretend that Europeans started the slave trade in Africa? Because that is patently untrue. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:47, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Quotations and early TalkPage discussion[edit]

A person enters debt bondage when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment of a loan, or of money given in advance. Usually, people are tricked or trapped into working for no pay or very little pay (in return for such a loan), in conditions which violate their human rights. Invariably, the value of the work done by a bonded labourer is greater that the original sum of money borrowed or advanced.

Debt bondage is a form of enslavement which is both ancient and modern. On the Indian sub-continent it took root in the caste system, and flourished in feudal agricultural relationships. Following the abolition of slavery, debt bondage was used as a method of colonial labour recruitment for the supply of labour to plantations in Africa, the Caribbean and South-East Asia. Today, debt bondage is expanding through a combination of mass migration from poverty and the global demand for sources of cheap, expendable domestic labour, and cheap sexual gratification.

Bonding people through debt is one of many ways in which people are enslaved. Bonded labourers are routinely threatened with (and subjected to) physical violence, and are kept under various forms of surveillance, in some cases by armed guards. There are very few cases where chains are actually used (there have been recent reports in Pakistan), but the constraints on the people concerned are every bit as real and as restricting. [1]

I removed the section on Student Loans. To put SL's in the same category as some of these other situations where death, imprisonment, and severe physical harm to yourself or your family is possible is incredibly stupid. This was originally submitted by an anonymous author [I'm guessing a former Communications major now working a menial fast-food job.] -- clintp 02-09-2005

Remove this

While 21st century Western Civilization has no remaining formal feudal structures, some have argued that the practice has merely evolved into wage slavery, an employment relationship wherein the employer deducts from the worker's pay a battery of fees for mandatory employer services, such as required on-site room and board, that are deliberately designed to exceed, or at least financially hobble, the worker's paycheck.

Most states in the United States make it illegal for an employer to deduct expenses from a paycheck without informing the worker up front about the deductions, and I really don't see how this could evolve into debt bondage without violating minimum wage laws.

My impression is that "peon" has much, much broader definition/usage in Latin America and while it may be accurate to equate "peonage" in US usage with debt bondage, I don't think there should be automatic re-directs from peon & peonage to this page. Grant65 (Talk) 02:57, Mar 24, 2004 (UTC)

I've come to expect this kind of extremism from this place, but is that last paragraph about student loans really necessary? Sure, the person has the debt until it's paid off, but no-one's forcing them to work or pay it off... --Felix the Cassowary 04:59, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)

So no one has to pay back their student loans?! If they don't, it's ok & nothing will happen to them, no one will come after them to collect?! I'll have to tell everyone I know that has student loans they don't have to pay them back! If debt bondage is slavery & is "prohibited by international law" why is it legal in US & worldwide? Because it would destroy CAPITALIST WAGE SLAVERY which is slavery too? USA should admit we never did anything right yet. Sundiiiaaa 04:54, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Marxist analysis[edit]

While it's nice to know what Marx thinks about the subject, perhaps it should be balanced by some views from the other side of the philosophical spectrum. Aplomado 07:47, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Try signing your snide comments, Aplomado. Based on this and your (similarly abusive) comments at talk:unfree labour and talk:truck system, I have a question for you: can you, personally, conceive of any form of labour, short of actual forced/slave labour which is exploitative? Grant65 | Talk 04:43, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, I accidentally did not sign this comment. I am new to the "signing comments" thing so I think it is forgiveable that I forgot. I have fixed my error per your request.
No I don't think labor that is not forced is exploitative. Nor do most free market advocates. If you mutually agree on a wage, you aren't being exploited by definition. To people like you, a wage below the minimum wage would be exploitative. But then again, if the government were to enforece a higher minimum wage than your market value, you would be out of a job. The government would then say to you, "Sure, you have no job, but hey at least you aren't being exploited!" Aplomado 07:47, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
OK, I accept that you are new to this. But Wikipedia ethos asks that we assume good faith among other editors. Try as we might, we all reflect to some degree our personal biases when writing/editing articles, and accusing people of pushing a particular ideology or theory is not productive.
You misunderstand my views on exploitative wage levels, which are not about a minimum wage, which is something set by a state; my point is about wages which are below the level of subsistence. This is almost non-existent in developed countries, but it has and does occur in developing countries and/or other historical contexts.Grant65 | Talk 07:44, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

I am a bit unclear as to what the point of this discussion is here? Are people asking for a non-Marxist analysis? Are we trying to hammer down what kind of labor is exploitation? It would seem to me that we may be able to agree on the following: A. The company store scenario is exploitation (you are working to pay off a debt, but the loaner has the capability to make it infeasible for you to ever do so). B. Marx essentially extends to concept to saying that the whole political-economic system is "the company." I mean, one can take or leave this viewpoint but it is a view. I am not familiar with a lot of well known alternative economic perspectives on debt bondage, so I am not exactly sure what the counterpoint is. Probably the counterpoint that considering the whole system to be as complicit as a single agent is unsupportable? In any event, that would still fall under the same line of discourse since it is a response to Marx rather than a unique view of the debt bondage system I think. So what is the other school of thought on debt bondage? Benjamid (talk) 22:38, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

There's a citation needed in the end of the Marxist Analysis section that I don't think needs to be there. Isn't that just kind of common knowledge? ObiBinks (talk) 06:44, 23 January 2010 (UTC)

The statement at the end of the "Marxist" Analysis section of the article is an unfounded and frankly slanted assertion. Needs to be rephrased. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:08, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

And it was all slavery & never should have been legal, so why do we let it continue today in 2006-7? It is slavery, & the wage is also slavery. It's slavery to build things far apart forcing every person to need a car. People need a car to get a job, but they need a job to get a car. Can't we admit our ignorance & make debt & renting & the wage system illegal because it is slavery? Ending it will end world poverty quickly, & that's what we should want to do, instead of worry about "who will do the work". Millions of children (11M) die every year because the US won't end our wage slave system, which is global because all nations are interconnected, which apparently few people knew, until now. Now it's obvious because there's no more free land, & too many cars, too much death & too much pollution, & no place to park, & freeways are parking lots. USA should end the wage & work part-time building 100-story live/work/play Tower cities connected to Trains, to save lives, save the earth, & eliminate the work slavery. I just want to end world poverty, & I know the wage is the cause. Sundiiiaaa 04:52, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Indentured service isn't always slavery[edit]

This article equated all indentured service with forced labor. While the mechanism can be abused, using methods mentioned in the text, I don't think it is automatically equivalent to slavery. Historically, people did perform bonded labor voluntarily, fulfill the terms of the bond, and then work freely for themselves afterwards. Whether or not the system is abused more frequently in modern times to disguise actual slavery is a different issue, about which I have no expertise, but presuming all indentured service is slave labor is not balanced. I think it cheapens actual slavery and distorts the motive and behavior of past individuals. I changed the article as best I could to remove that implication.

StephenMacmanus 01:59, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes it is slavery. People must read the definitions of slavery & really think about it. Millions of people have to work jobs (McDonalds, Wal-Mart, dirty jobs, dangerous jobs etc) which they hate but if they dont they will starve, so it's forced labor. All debt is slavery, so it actually shouldn't be legal, & it's all we're taught (ads). It is, because few people ever said it's slavery & shouldn't be legal, so that's why it's legal. The Supreme Court says the wage isn't slavery but it is. Supreme Court says debt isn't slavery but it is. Supreme Court says corporations are legal but they're slave plantations so they should not be legal. The wage system is the cause of world poverty, so once we just SAY it's all slavery then we can pass laws that will make it illegal. The wage is slavery & should be illegal. (I have not edited any of the formal topics; I just want to talk in the talk section, for now, until we can agree to change it to help end the wage to end world poverty. Please email me if you want to talk about this: Sundiiiaaa 03:28, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Here are the best websites I've found about child slavery (or labor). Do you want to add them to the article? And another: Sundiiiaaa 18:33, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
You're both right in a way. The generic term unfree labor is used by scholars for both slavery and indenture, as well as other froms of labor that are not free, waged employment. Grant65 | Talk 03:28, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
Aren't you all saying that "unfree labor" is not slavery??? Just by changing the words makes it not "real slavery"?? So that's why USA is causing world poverty to this day! Talk about a subtle way to kill millions of innocent children! Sundiiiaaa 07:06, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Since debt slavery is slavery (that's why it's called debt slavery) & wage slavery is slavery (that's why it's called wage slavery), that means we have to change all words in this encyclopedia regarding slavery & the wage, etc, from past tense ("slavery was...") to present tense ("slavery is..."), right? Yes. I'll gladly help do that. Just tell me when I can start. There are so many articles, it will take a long time to set the record straight. Sundiiiaaa 07:18, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Slavery is just one of many forms of unfree labour, put it that way. "Wage slavery" is a controversial term, since many people feel uncomfortable likening slaves to present-day wage earners. Grant | Talk 09:07, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

But it IS slavery, my dear. All work is slavery, & we can eliminate all/most work with automation, which will destroy the capitalist wage slave system, which is slavery. And that will also end world poverty. USA built everything wrong (cars, houses & small buildings). We should have eliminated all work by building beautiful 100-story live/work/play Tower cities connected to maglev Trains, but capitalism stopped us from doing that & is still causing world poverty. Truth is Truth, so let people feel uncomfortable calling wage earners slaves because that's what they are: slaves. No one is free until every person on earth has a Guaranteed Income RFID, so that food & medicine & building T&T will be free. The RFID will eliminate the evil 'Big Brother'. Sundiiiaaa 18:24, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Okay. I don't normally do this, but I am literally shocked that someone has not responded to how ridiculous your claims are, Sundiiiaaa. All work is slavery? Really? Unless you're taking a philosophical view of the physical body as a form of indentured constraint, that is just a backwards view. Yes, we are slaves to our anatomical functions if we wish to survive. Regardless of what you may think, we would not survive without work. Somebody has to procure food. Somebody has to transport food. Somebody has to well water, somebody has to clean water, somebody has to remove waste water. Does it suck to have to remove garbage and waste? Yes. But unless we all want to stop our working ways and wallow in our own feces, we're pretty much stuck.
You secondly state that all wages are slavery. The wage system is not perfect. Much like democracy, it tends to degenerate into greedy, short sighted outcomes. I am the first to admit that. Also, if a single party can control both the wages and the cost of living, they have a tyrannical level of power. But the wage system, ultimately, is based upon demand and supply. And you know what demand and supply ultimately means, in an ideal distribution framework? People giving to other people. Imagine there was no incentive in choosing a career that benefited anyone else. Just imagine that concept. Think on it. Surely, there will be a good number of people who will still work along valiantly for the benefit of others. Do you think there would be enough though? Assume you could earn the same amount of money for trying to be a major league baseball player versus repairing the sewer system. Do you know anyone who wants to work in the sewers? Do you know how much a garbage collector makes? Quite a bit. And if some of them had other skills, they'd probably rather use those. Why do they do it? For the wage. The advantage to slogging knee deep in sewage versus staying home filling out surveys at subsistence level is the wage difference. So you're proposing a great world filled with huge skyscrapers and maglev's, but no one to build them because they'd all rather major in Esperanto. I hope you realize that. If we didn't have wages, or a comparable incentive system, how would those things get built? Chattel slavery? Like the pyramids? Everyone wants to design the pyramids, nobody wants to move the rocks. There are plenty of causes to world poverty and there are systemic drawbacks to certain market systems but the reason why a wage works is the same reason why an auction works- the wage for a service generally reaches a level between demand (how much people want that service) and supply (people with the skills to provide that service).
The reason why wages are not slavery is that it is not imposed by a person. It is imposed by the needs and wants of the many. The only breaks you are talking about in the system is where the wants of the powerful are weighed higher than the needs of the disenfranchised. Wage earning is not slavery. It's not that people are uncomfortable about saying it. It's that it's flat out incorrect. In the vast majority of cases, a person earning a wage has the following opportunities: 1. To seek employment in a career options, with different pros and cons. 2. To pursue additional skills which will increase their career options. 3. To attempt entrepreneurship, finding a new use for their skills. 4. To receive goods, services, or proxies for such in return. 5. The ability to quit, with no direct repercussions beyond the economic repercussions. A slave is not assured any of these. A person who is in debt bondage will be missing most of these. A person who is a wage earner, even living at subsistence, has all of these. Benjamid (talk) 23:23, 18 February 2010 (UTC)


Olivia de Havilland successfully used an appeal to California's anti-peonage law to break her movie studio contract, which onerously imposed one-sided conditions such as arbitrary extensions, etc. Movie stars as peons? Apparently, technically, yes! Rhinoracer 12:44, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

citation for peonage in the first paragraph[edit]

Added POV tag[edit]

Basically, see my comments above regarding indentured servants.

The practice of paying debts with labor, by various names is centuries old, with wide variations in practice.

The current article is skewed both in the time frame and content. It is limited to a modern viewpoint only, starting with a UN definition from 1956, and it defines this entire topic as inherently equivalent to slavery.

An encyclopedia article requires a broader perspective to accurately portray the nature of this system, which varied depending on the place and time.

This article is more of a polemic "all debt bondage is bad!" message, which is overly simplistic at best.

StephenMacmanus (talk) 02:07, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

I support the addition of the POV tag. This article, as it exists in Aug-2009, has a very strong polemical ring to it and it should really be made more just-plain-descriptive with the more extreme claims and counterclaims placed in a Controversy section or something. A broader perspective as to place and time with respect to debt bondage will be a good approach to strenghthening the article. N2e (talk) 23:21, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

The Rich and the Super-Rich[edit]

This passage uses circular reasoning to assert its point -- "Most Americans... own nothing more than their household goods." So, if you ignore what people own, then they don't own anything??
In my opinion, this whole "Marxism by the back door" approach, however prevalent a perspective it is with some sociology textbooks, would distort this article beyond recognition, if it were followed. Equating any and all wage-earners as essentially identical to slaves, just because some people somewhere have even more money, just cheapens and diminishes the actual practice of slavery. When left to their own devices, some people will always have more than others, but that difference doesn't automatically mean injustice exists. I think Thomas Jefferson's quote, though about religion, also applies here. Even though someone earns more money than I do, that fact alone "does not pick my pocket or break by leg and therefore it's no harm to me." StephenMacmanus (talk) 22:07, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
One percent of the world owns thirty three percent of the entire world's wealth. Now, they maintain this though usury, arms dealing, and other shady means. The global banking cartel and the like. Now, if not slaves, we're serfs. It just depends on semantics now, as we're becoming more and more of them every day. Even you, you class traitor. Unless you're one of the 1%. Then I just despise you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:21, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

POV categories[edit]

Category:Child labour and Category:Commercial crimes are added in this article. These are POV categories inappropriate in this article. --Defender of torch (talk) 11:20, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

India's Dalits?[edit]

"According to some claims, 40 million people in India, most of them Dalits, are bonded workers, many working to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago. However, these claims are certainly not true as slavery or any sort of bonded labor is illegal in India and exist only in extremely remote areas only where education has not yet reached." Shouldn't this have some sort of citations? If there's a controversy, I would probably want to see a solid citation stating each. Otherwise I feel this section is just a dual POV statement. Some people state this, some people state that. Who? I can see this equally being a weasel-approach to stating that there are 40 million indentured or almost nobody indentured in India. Benjamid (talk) 23:38, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

Citations and sources are needed[edit]

Please be sure that all additions to the Debt bondage are are verifiable. Any new items added to the article should have inline citations for each claim made.

I have removed a good deal of the unsourced material that had been previously tagged {{citation needed}} for at least a couple of months with no sources added. (More removal of unsourced claims are needed). If you have a source, please feel free to add the material back in, along with the citation. Cheers. N2e (talk) 17:31, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

Legal Definition[edit]

Is there actually a legal definition of debt bondage? What is given is a confused lay definition.

"Debt bondage is classically defined as a situation when a person provides a loan to another and uses his or her labor or services to repay the debt; when the value of the work, as reasonably assessed, is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt, the situation becomes one of debt bondage" is a contradiction.

Is there a non-classical definition.

Labour is intended to repay a debt - it is not necesarily pledged in return for a loan, and fact more often labour is pledged when a debt already exists and cannot be repaid by other means.

As for the "where the value of the work, as reasonably assessed, is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt". That is simply wrong. The work IS applied towards the liquidation of the debt (satisfaction, or repayment, would be better words to use). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:29, 15 May 2011 (UTC)