In the most ambitious comparative study of slavery to date, Orlando Patterson confidently takes the pervasive impact of this phenomenon as a given, not only among the literary elite but also among the labourers themselves:

The use of personally dominated individuals for the production and reproduction of wealth exposed the reality behind the so-called free labor. The laborer came to see his work for others for what it really was – alienation from the means of production and exploitation by the employer. Faced with the stark reality of personal power exercised over slaves, the worker could easily see that his much-vaunted freedom to change employers was simply a meaningless freedom to change masters. . . . Nonslave workers universally tended to despise work for others in all societies where a critical mass of slaves was used.