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This question made me wonder what the new generation of stormtroopers would've been paid with in The Force Awakens. However, given this line

Finn: I'm a stormtrooper. Like all of them, I was taken from a family I'll never know, and raised to do one thing.

it's clear that the children weren't given the choice to go into stormtrooper training... And an additional line suggests they're brainwashed since birth.

General Hux: My men are exceptionally trained.

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    Abducted from their families and forced to do prescribed work on pain of death? That sure sounds like slavery to me. – Valorum Aug 4 '16 at 21:34
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The spartans of ancient greece had the Agoge, where the males would leave their families from the age of 7 to train to become the future generation of soldiers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agoge

The agoge is considered harsh as a soldier training regime that I doubt any 7 year old would volunteer for without some brainwashing persuasion (they were given a limited amount of food so they would be used to hunger on the battlefield, encouraged to sneak and steal but punished with beatings if you are caught stealing, encouraged to fight each other to prove their strength) but those that survived would be "exceptionally trained". Failing the Agoge (and somehow making it out alive) would mean the person could not become a citizen of Sparta.

It was part of their culture, and not done to enslave the people that took part (though they were not paid) but more to make them stronger members of their society for the greater good of all.

In the end it comes down to a question of belief and perspective. If a person believes that serving in the First Order is the right thing to do as they have been brainwashed then it is an honour for them to be working towards the goal of galactic peace, by defending themselves and those under the protection of the Order from the violence of the Rebellion.

The perspective of star wars is always shown as "rebels = good, empire = bad" and the empire has a nasty habit of blowing up the occasional planet an aggressive population pacification policy that means the audience then sympathizes with the one man who swaps side because then he CHOOSES to kill people, instead of being TOLD who poses a threat and should be killed pacified for the good of the empire.

In one possible future where Disney decides to reboot the entire star wars series from the point of view that "empire = good, rebels = bad", someone will be on here asking about the unruly teenager who was bad at doing his chores, didn't listen to his family, handled stolen imperial property, became proficient in "bulls-eyeing" rats from an aircraft, ran away from home, joined a rebel army and committed terrorism by blowing up military installations.

Has he been radicalized by the old fugitive with mind control powers he met in the desert, or has he always been a bad guy?

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Yes, at least in our own historical sense, First Order stormtroopers would be considered slaves. In fact, citing Finn as you already have provides us nearly all the information needed to make that determination.

As stated, Stormtroopers are taken from their families at a young age and forced into training. This almost exactly mirrors practices in our own history with military orders such as the Turkish Janissaries and the Egyptian Mamluks. Foreign children and those of other religions were taken from their families and forged into an elite class of soldiers. Well regarded for their skill and lack of any ties to the existing power structure, they could be depended upon to stay loyal without any conflicts of interest during internal squabbles. Regardless of their level of acceptance, support for the institution, salary received, or power that they would eventually come to wield, we today still consider them as slaves(The word Mamluk even translates as slave or property).

//Disclaimer: Not sure as to what degree real world comparisons are relevant, but it is where our own concept and definition of slavery is based.

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Slave suggests that they were intended primarily for menial untrained labor. They were trained, arguably better than the imperial stormtroopers were. I would be more inclined to describe them as conscripts. There probably isn't a significant difference between the 2 in how they came to be in the military but there is a difference in training and how they were utilized.

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Many Imperial Strormtroopers taken at an early age were eventually manipulated into the regime of their faction. It is highly plausible that several Imperial and First Order troopers did and do not enjoy what they have to do. Therefore further supporting your question.

  • Do you have a source for that? Saying "it is highly plausible..." and "further supporting your question" without providing much more concrete information is not a very complete answer. – A. McCurran Aug 5 '16 at 3:52
  • What I said isn't confirmed or official. Stormtroopers were taken away from their families at a very early age. I was led to believe that because of this, any trooper would not be happy to learn what they must do. As a Stormtrooper progressed further in his or her career serving the Empire, they would be manipulated into thinking the Rebels are the enemies. – Jonathan Lopez Aug 5 '16 at 4:00

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