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Plantation Life in the Antebellum South

As Blassingame maintains, despite the master having almost absolute power over the slave from a legal perspective, he was "dependent on the slave's labor for his economic survival, the planter ordinarily could not afford to starve, torture, or work him to death."[2] This picture of the master-slave relationship stands in contrast to many others, including slave narratives, but Blassingame's sources also include the autobiographies of former slaves in addition to planter's autobiographies and travel reports.

Blassingame provides a fascinating section on the parallels between the institution of slavery and other total institutions such as concentration camps and prisons. In doing so, he examines slavery from another perspective and shows that greater mutuality and accommodation are evident in the master-slave relationship than many individuals believe. The author also demonstrates that power relations in any institution between those in absolute power and those they control does not necessarily result in total subordination of the powerless group simply because they are not powerless as he shows with slaves. As Blassingame writes of this phenomenon,

From the comparison, it would appear that there is no deterministic relationship between institutional sanctio

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