In my world, there is a country made up of mostly demons (a species) and ghouls. Their economy is both capitalistic and mercantilistic, and their government is a constitutional dictatorship. Currently, they are in the middle of industrialization, but also keep slaves. For worldbuilding notes:

  • Demons are a species of horned humanoids, and while they can be just as evil as a human, society expects them to be scumbags and jerks, so...

  • Their economy is mainly dependent on factories, including metalworks and textiles

  • Their environment is volcanic and can be compared to Mordor

  • They are not really that religious as a society

My question is: despite the advancements in technology, what reason would they need to keep slaves? I am aware there is a question about why would an advanced civilization want slaves without a reason, but this question is what conditions would have an advanced civilization NEED slaves, technologically and economically?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think there is nearly enough information here to answer this question; it is a potentially endless list of suggestions and guesses. (But as demons, wouldn't they have a vested interest in the suffering and pain of slaves?) $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Oct 24, 2022 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't they have slaves? The society as you describe it seems perfect for having slavery! $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Oct 24, 2022 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ "Currently, they are in the middle of industrialization, but also keep slaves": Have you heard of the United States of America? They kept slaves well into the second half of the nineteenth century. By that time, they had telegraph, railroads, mechanized factories, a fully functional capitalist economy, and were a leading industrial nation. But they still kept a large number of slaves -- about one eighth of the population consisted of slaves. They actually had to fight a vicious civil war to get rid of slavery. (And yes, it was a constitutional dictatorship...) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 24, 2022 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ What is a "constitutional dictatorship"? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Oct 24, 2022 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Not so. During Reconstruction pretty much everyone involved in the Confederate govt were banned from office. Several states tried reintroducing slavery in effect via labour laws (work for years with payment in arrears and lots of ways to forfeit them) and the US stepped in with a forceful no. Things went backwards in the 1900s, esp under Wilson. Outlandish claims like 40% are based on redefining 'slavery' to mean 'working a low paying job under bad conditions' or similar. FWIW, there are still slaves, and an increasing number, but it's illegal and secretive. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Oct 24, 2022 at 17:58

9 Answers 9


Their economy is both capitalistic and mercantilistic, and their government is a constitutional dictatorship. Currently, they are in the middle of industrialization

Excuse me, but I fail to see why this would discourage slavery? Capitalism doesn’t preclude slave holding. Mercantilism was the fundamental economic mindset behind colonialism and the accompanying Atlantic slave trade. A “constitutional dictatorship” doesn’t on its face seem like it would prohibit slavery. Plenty of countries with constitutions had slavery, and dictatorships have never said no to coercion and exploitation. As for the start of industrialization, I’d say that the penal labor of gulags and laogai during the early USSR and Maoist China are pretty much intensive slavery right at the start of heavy industrialization.

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    $\begingroup$ Plus, you could argue that US prison labour is a kind of slavery. Or if you disagree, it wouldn't require many modifications to the system to produce it. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2022 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @BugCatcherNakata Most slavery historically has been of a punitive or debt based nature. $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Oct 26, 2022 at 4:15

Think of the GULAG, and similar systems.

  • Some parts of the country are bad enough that workers would have to be paid a lot to work there. Yet working in those places is deemed necessary for the national economy. And paying a lot is not what "the system" wants to do.
  • There are still plenty of jobs for low-skilled, easily measured labor ("dig five metres of ditch"). Harder to coerce a rocket scientist in a camp, even if the USSR did manage that.
  • The dictatorship finds it appropriate to punish some of the most heinous crimes (in their view) with a hereditary life sentence.

Side note, I find the "constitutional dictatorship" in your description problematic. If it respects a constitution, is it a dictatorship any more? A "capitalist merchantilism" would need a strict separation of international merchantilist politices and domestic capitalism.

  • $\begingroup$ Some parts - or all parts, thanks to value extraction! Nobody is paid very much except for the dictator and his supporters and their families, who are paid a lot. Nobody wants to work for low wages so it's that or gulags. Everyone is a slave (except the dictator and his supporters and their families) $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:18

It defrays the cost of supporting refugees:

Your society of Demons and Ghouls is not as brutal as they like people to think - but they are far from nice. Refugees are a serious problem, with wars and famines causing mass dislocations of people around their world. Many of these show up in your rough neighborhood out of necessity. Your Demons want to discourage refugees from entering their territory, but aren't so heartless that they kill them or expel them to a certain death. Yet there are only so many resources to go around.

So to defray the costs of supporting the extra people, they are enslaving them. Any company or farm willing to pick up the cost of keeping a refugee alive can get as many as they are willing to support. In exchange, the refugee is stripped of their rights (if that's even a concept to the Demons) in perpetuity. Anyone not desperate enough to risk enslavement isn't going to enter the Demon's realm.

So from the demonic perspective, slavery is the upstanding moral choice to the humanitarian crisis.


Why would they not have slaves?

In the current "fully" industrialized countries we are still told there is a great need for cheap unskilled labour. Businesses need people to do manual tasks - cleaning offices, working on production lines, packing items in warehouses for delivery, food harvesting - and the owners are constantly telling us that paying high wages hurts both the costs of the items to the consumer and the general economy. Businesses want to pay the lowest wages they can. Slavery is merely the logical extension of that.

Some more trusted slaves could be put to work in customer-facing jobs - retail service, call centres, etc. Even in the slave-owning south some slaves were given responsible positions.

I think it is absolutely certain that if slavery were legally and socially acceptable, with no pushback from consumers, companies and people would "recruit" slaves to do those jobs currently done by low-wage employees.

  • $\begingroup$ The entire reason chattel slavery collapsed in our world is that wage slaves are cheaper. Why do you think that would play out differently in OP’s world? $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenS Chattel slavery collapsed because slavery become unpopular. They to this day remain economically viable, but countries that use slave labor face trade sanctions that make them less economical. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenS Definitely not the entire reason. If there was a cost factor then it must have been the capital costs of slaves that was high, which may or may not be a factor in the OPs world. If the cost of buying a slave is low then I absolutely stand by what I wrote. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2022 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Besides, even if chattel slavery was more expensive, there's always the option that some of the costs would be borne by other actors, making it 'cheaper' for certain people. It's certainly cheaper to pay a prisoner $1.45 per day to fight fires in california than a 'wage slave', you just have to find a convenient nearby Nation State to declare a war on drugs $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2022 at 5:13

Before answering why such advanced civilization still have slavery, lets evaluate why we now (modern time, in modern countries) do not have slavery:

  • its not cost effective (economically) or have low 'value against competition'
    • raising slave from baby or capturing slave is pricy (imagine how many food and education must be given just for simple manual labor)
    • they need to be housed (need land), fed (need food), clothed, educated (at very least trained on how to do their target task/job, even a menial one)
    • the competition (machines) are far better than slaves: cheaper cost of acquisition (because machines are mass produced), cheaper cost of maintenance (no food needed, no housing needed, no medicines needed), have higher capacity/more productive
    • the competition (skilled laborers) are far better than slaves: they can operate machines (see point above), do not need to be raised from infancy (very costly), and a few can operate a huge production plants (compare with the amount of slaves needed to operate production plants of comparable size)
  • they pose biological risk
    • since the slaves are going to be mostly poorly cared for, they might contract disease
    • since the masters is of the same species with the slaves (both homo sapiens), disease can be transmitted both way (from slave to master or vice-versa) and this is very undesirable
  • they pose political/military threat
    • human slaves can (and will) revolt, since they're as smart as you are (have same human brain, can be trained, organized, and coordinated the way you train, organize, and coordinate your army)
    • your political enemy can use them as 'dissident' to wage proxy war with you (e.g.: your political enemy fund and train your slaves to revolt, while their regular army sit back and see the mayhem)
  • not having slave can give you edge in diplomacy (e.g.: showing others that you have 'moral high ground' over those slave owners)

Now let me introduce another word: 'livestock' and 'beast of burden'

  • they are not of the same species with you, so they should not (or pose lesser) have biological risk
    • some disease are transmitted in ranch from livestock to the ranchers, but it's relatively very low than human-to-human transmission of disease
  • they pose far lesser military threat if any (e.g.: if your stables get captured by enemy forces, they might make use of the horses as mount)
  • they do not give you moral burden
  • they are relatively more cost effective (economically), if they are not, you can just release (or put them down) them
    • or you specifically bred your livestock to get most meat out of smallest maintenance cost

So, if for the demons in your demon country do not think enslaving humans pose such risk/drawback/threat (economic,biological,military/political,moral/diplomatic), then they will do it

How do you achieve it is up to you, but here's some pointer:

  • biological: demons and humans are very different species already, so no disease could be transmitted
  • moral/diplomacy: demons have different values than humans, so moral/diplomatic burden does not (may not) apply
  • military/political: if your demons are far stronger (maybe in individual prowess or in pitched battles/raids/guerilla battles or politically), then this threat/risk does not apply (same as we humans do not think herd of bulls/elephants as military threat)
  • economical: maybe your demons does not keep humans to do manual labor that the demons themselves do not want to do, but one that they cannot do (e.g.: they cannot create art/paintings, or they are too big to do maintenance of small equipment, or they have some need for human randomness/unpredictability like for seeding RNGs that they cannot do themselves)

They have a similar constitution to the USA

Much like the USA, their constitution allows for slavery for convicts, and corporations and the government work to arrest political dissidents and rivals and the homeless and racial minorities and such and use them as slave labour to get rich.

They need slaves because slaves work for less money and can endure worse conditions, much like the USA.

They don't have external trade

One of the big reasons western nations use slavery less is that they can buy goods from other countries which do slavery far away from them, so it's seen as less immoral because you don't have slavery in your country. External countries are of other species and aren't that willing to trade, especially en masse. As such, they can't use slavery in other countries to mass produce goods.


To Work in the Factories

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Currently, they are in the middle of industrialization.

They are just starting to build factories. The factories have primitive machines and still need many unskilled workers. The slaves go to the factory.

In the real world, factories in the industrial revolution are known for their inhumane working conditions. I doubt being called slaves makes much of a difference.

what conditions would have an advanced civilization NEED slaves?

The condition is that their economy has relied on slave labour for the last thousand years. They need slaves because if the slaves go away, there is no one left to build, make or grow anything.

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    $\begingroup$ The entire reason chattel slavery collapsed in our world is that wage slaves are cheaper. Why do you think that would play out differently in OP’s world? $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ Slaves make horrible industrial workers. Free workers come with a built-in incentive to be productive, learn and pay attention to quality: they want to be promoted in order to earn better wages. On the contrary, a slave will always try to get away with the least amount of work possible. Some kinds of low-productivity, manpower-intensive agriculture can use slaves; factories, not so much. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 25, 2022 at 7:23

History says industrialization encourages slavery

The Industrial Revolution lasted from to 1760-1840. Emancipation did not start to happen until we moved into Post-Industrial society. Just because slaves were often working in different geographic areas than freemen does not mean they were not a vital part of the industrial revolution. In fact, countries that did not have slaves at thier disposal were much slower to industrialize.

Why slavery lasted throughout the Industrial Revolution

Saving money on industrialization does you little good if the materials you are working with are too few or too expensive. Slave labor is a good way for an early industrial society to bring in those cheap natural resources. A textile mill needs large quantities of cheap cotton to make a profit. A saw mill needs loads of cheap wood. A steel works needs tons of cheap ore and coal. Factories CAN produce a lot of goods, but without a strong supply chain, they are worthless.

So throughout the industrial revolution, these supply chains were protected through the use of large scale forced labor. Slaves, chattel serfs, dept peons, and various other classifications of forced labor were engineered to create supply chains to meet the needs of the factories. Because of this great disparity between gathering efficiency and production efficiency, slavery of some sort is almost an inevitable part of industrialization.

So, while slaves may not be needed to run your demonic factories, they may require large numbers of slaves to supply the factories with raw materials if the techniques to gather the materials are still done by pure manual labor.

Why Slavery Collapses

A post-industrial society is defined as one where the profits of service based businesses outpace the profits of industrial businesses. Over time, industrialization and automation spreads to more and more parts of your society until meeting the demand for manufactured goods no longer requires your whole population. When this happens, capitalism ensures that you will always have a stable supply chain given a free population; so, the need for slaves wains.

More over, a post-industrial society requires a large population of freemen to recognize service needs and adjust what they do for a living to fill those needs. Slaves are a poor option for this economic model because they are not free to recognize and exploit new needs. So, it is only economies that continue to use slaves after the industrial demand of a nation is met that tend to fall behind.

In summary: as long as your nation is "in the middle of industrialization", they will still have a huge demand for slavery, and any concern about that is simply an anachronistic misunderstanding of history.


The need for slaves is not because of the advanced civilization. The need is based on the slaveholder's biology: they actually have a symbiotic relationship to the slaves. Being around slaves transfers certain chemicals to the owner which greatly enhances their lives.

This effect can be similar to the economic reasons for owning slaves. In human history, owning slaves concentrated wealth into the owner. (Even if owning slaves reduced the economic activity of the society, it helped the owner enough to ignore the harm to society.) In this case, owning slaves and being around them concentrates chemicals into the owner.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the response. For history, I have been confused about that, since while it worked for U.S. history, there is the huge claim that it inhibited industrialization for societies like Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. $\endgroup$
    – Crafter
    Oct 24, 2022 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Crafter, slavery is the only way in an agricultural society to concentrate wealth. Because it is so successful, it becomes the accepted way to become "filthy rich". In America, industrialization started up north where it was much harder to get large farms and slavery was limited (mostly to cities). By having many people competing against each other, America benefited with far more application of invention. The South had few but large and incredibly rich farmers who didn't need the inventions (except for the cotton gin). Rome did the same. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Oct 25, 2022 at 14:26

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