These are the intertwined histories of economic ontology and slavery that Scott draws on in White Male For Sale. As Scott says:
“People are inherently non-fungible. But as slavery became an integral part of developing capitalism, enslavers sought to turn people into commodities and make them fungible. Capitalism, born in slavery and colonialism, in an ever relentless pursuit of profit, forms the foundation of modern society.”
Not only is capitalism built on slavery and colonialism, so are modern technics. From Karl Marx to Lewis Mumford, the conception of technics and automated machines are inseparable from the logic of slavery. Mumford himself theorised the first machines as slaves in The Myth of The Machine, saying:
“… the great labor machine was in every aspect a genuine machine: all the more because its components, though made of human bone, nerve, and muscle, were reduced to their bare mechanical elements and rigidly standardised for the performance of their limited tasks. The taskmaster’s lash ensured conformity. Such machines had already been assembled if not invented by kings in the early part of the pyramid age, from the end of the Fourth Millennium on.”
Here we see this same, fungible, idea of mechanising and commodifying the body being a process of emptying meaning; making the body an abstract tool to be utilised by a centralised force.
Tim Armstrong also highlights the persistent idea of the slave as conceptually aligned with the machine in his text The Logic of Slavery: Debt, Technology, and Pain in American Literature. He discusses how, throughout slavery and redress in America, the slave body was yoked to machines — whether it be the myth that industrialism would bring an end to slavery or the pro-slavery arguments that favoured corporal punishment over clock-time and factory-style discipline.
The legacy of slavery persists even in the language of technics today. For example, asymmetric control systems are still referred to as “master/slave” in computing and technology, and there’s been a move in recent years to rename “master” branches “main” branches.