Volume 38, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2018
Ethics in the Afterlife of Slavery
Race, Augustinian Politics, and the Problem of the Christian Master
The recent renaissance of Augustinian ethics remains mostly silent about the central place of slavery in Augustine’s thought. Although Augustinians appear confident his insights can be excised from his legitimation of the institution of slavery, two facts challenge this assumption: First, slavery constitutes not simply one moral issue among others for Augustine but an organizing, conceptual metaphor; second, the contemporary scene to which Augustinians apply his thought is itself the afterlife of a slave society. Thus, to bear faithful witness in a racialized world, Augustinians must grapple with slavery as Augustine’s key conceptual metaphor, one that animates his thought and subtly reproduces the moral vantage of the master.