I'm watching the Clone Wars series and I've just hit S04E12 in regards to the slavers. I understand; but don't agree with, why slaves exist on earth, but in Star Wars, they have droids. These droids have been shown to be very capable and not necessarily all that expensive to own and operate. They can be programmed to be completely obedient and are easy to repair.

I can understand the idea of slaves for 'other uses' but in these episodes they're being used for manual labor. Reading around it seems wookiees were also used as slaves due to their strength, however a droid should be stronger.

If this is the case, why enslave. It would probably cost more to feed and cloth a slave than a droid. Slaves aren't normally obedient nor proficient in any skill and therefor would require additional training, which would be time consuming and even more expensive. When they die the cost of corpse disposal comes into play. If a droid is destroyed it can be cannibalized for parts making it cost effective even when they break, think upgrading a computer. When a computer is upgraded, parts from the older machine can typically be used in the newer machine and will offset the cost. That isn't normally possible with living creatures.

Even if you don't incur a cost obtaining said slaves, the one buying them would. The whole slavery thing doesn't seem cost effective.

Is there a good reason, or is this one of those, evil empire being evil before reason issues?

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    From Reddit AskScienceFiction 'Droids are expensive, and require maintenance, and generally are only programmed for one task. Slaves are cheap, heal naturally, and can be trained to do anything.'
    – fez
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 16:45
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    "Well, if droids could think, there'd be none of us here, would there?"
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 16:50
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    @fez This does not make sense in light of the facts of the universe depicted in the movies. Droids are expensive? If they're so expensive, how are they so ubiquitous? Maintenance seems like the sort of job that would be perfect for a droid. And "generally only programmed for one task" is clearly nonsense - see C-3PO and R2-D2, for example. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 17:35
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    Why do people in some places use donkeys when the Earth has lots of cars?
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 7:13
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    I don't care how good your tech is or what universe we're talking about; unfortunately, the sentence: "The whole slavery thing doesn't seem cost effective." ... is never likely to be true.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 2:07

6 Answers 6



On some planets, droids are too expensive, while slaves could be cheap. With somewhat relaxed control of the central government (The Republic) over remote planets, such as Tatooine, and the nature of local governments there (crime lords, such as The Hutts, and limited galaxy-wide law enforcing (some hundreds of Jedi are hardly sufficient) even if slavery is illegal In the Republic, those worlds have laws of their own (even Galactic credits are not accepted on Tatooine).

The Empire had their additional use of slavery - it was meant to keep their subjects in line, as captured rebels became slaves, so everyone knew the price of being disloyal.


Slavery is an important element of character background for Anakin, in the prequels, and completes the atmosphere of a miserable, villain-ruled environment on Tatooine, possibly inspired by the poor Mexican villages of the Wild West movies, such as "A Fist Full of Dollars" and similar spaghetti-westerns.

For the Empire, it draws parallels with the Nazis using slave labor in concentration camps, and with the ancient Empires (such as the Romans) that heavily relied on slave labor.

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    I'll accept this answer. It's possible that the price of droids could skyrocket on planets with slaves. It's possible that the presents of one causes a market fallout on the other due to a lack of local competition. If only one or two dealers sell droids then it's possible that said droid market would be price fixed since the republic can't enforce it's own laws. I would assume local crime lords would force pressure on the slave market cap, while being indifferent to droid markets. So, the presents of slaves causes droids to cost more. If laws were followed, then droids would cost less. Ironic
    – Kayot
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:31
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    possibly inspired by the poor Mexican villages of the Wild West movies, such as "A Fist Full of Dollars" -- it's possibly noting at this point that A Fistful of Dollars is, of course, a western remake of an Akira Kurosawa film, and Kurosawa's films were one of Lucas's acknowledged influences when making Star Wars.
    – Jules
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 19:12
  1. Convenience. Organic life is cheap. The Star Wars galaxy has quadrillions of people. Organic beings are handy because they can take orders, use most tools agilely, and recover from injuries without requiring maintenance. Especially on worlds like Tatooine, where sand causes mechanical issues, organic beings are useful: after just a short walk in the sand, C-3PO's joints begin to freeze up, and he clearly lacks the agility to perform self-cleaning activities, just based on the range of motion that's observable in the films. Organic beings, on the other hand, are self-cleaning, are able to recover from damage without needing maintenance, and are very multi-purpose.

  2. 'Othering'. One of the major impetuses for slavery, and a common moral justification, is seeing another group as lesser, or at the very least, different, and thus morally acceptable to subjugate. We often see species having other species as slaves (Jabba, Watto, etc). Wookiees were also popular as slave labor, at least in EU, because it was easy to see them as animal-like, and thus justifiable. The same is true for Ugnaughts, and to an extension, Twi-leks. Since the Empire was humanocentric, slavery flourished as humans were encouraged to see other humanoids or near-humans as subhuman, and thus more acceptable to enslave.

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    If you think organic beings are self-cleaning, you've clearly never met a teenaged boy.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 11:00
  • I have to partially disagree with point 1.The reason C-3PO froze up was because he wasn't built for the environment.It would be like taking a Lamborghini to the outback.Sure, it's a high end car, but it'll be dead in thirty minutes of driving.A rover however would survive, even thrive in such harsh conditions.Another reason droids are better, since they can be built for the environment.Since slaves typically live in the same place for the rest of their lives, a droid built for said environment would be superior. I can agree with point 2, since slavery in our world is still done for that reason
    – Kayot
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:36
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    He was literally built /on/ Tattooine, @Kayot. I don't think we have a lot of evidence to show that C-3PO is any more or less sand-hardened than most droids.
    – Daniel B
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 16:06
  • He was built there, but then adapted for senate life later for use by Amidala. He was up and running just fine when Anakin showed up years later for unrelated business on Tattooine. I would assume that when he was retrofitted for Amidala, finer motor controls where swapped into place. Motors that weren't made for Tattooine conditions.
    – Kayot
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 13:51

This boils down to the cost.

In real world, we are seeing news headlines and research articles about robots, AI stealing our jobs because non-slave humans require salaries which can be very expensive. On top of that medical insurances, allowances and all those different types of perks make it even more expensive. Plus, there are government laws to protect employees so that employer can't really force employees to work 24 hours a day like robots. In case of slavery, non of these applies. Slaves don't need to be paid salaries or perks and you can push them to work as many hours as they could (if they die, there're always more slaves). Foods and clothes aren't that expensive.

Elon Musk had to shell out millions of dollars to build assembly lines at Tesla Factory (I don't have enough data, but he had purchased $50 million worth of outdated Schuler SMG hydraulic stamping press lines for $6 million and other manufacturing equipment for $17 million). If he had an army of slaves, I don't think he would have needed even $1 million (training doesn't cost that much).

This when I talk about low complexity tasks. Increase the complexity, ratio of cost of droids to cost of slaves would go even higher. Three days ago, a GM exec slammed Elon Musk on his statement that he would soon release full-fledged self-driving Tesla Model 3 under $50,000 once the software is ready. According to GM exec, it'd require at least $500,000 worth of sensors to do that but only after 10 - 15 years. Today, you can hire a car driver at a fraction of the self-driving tech cost. While the tech cost should go low over time, even in Star Wars universe such differences exist. Examples can be Army differences. B1 Battle Droids (which were poor against clone troopers) were almost always leaded by a non-droid commander. T-series Tactical Droids (which could command an army) and IG-100 MagnaGuard (which could screw a Jedi) were hyper expensive and that's why they were rare.

Lastly, poor economy can make even an average cost droid expensive (Remember, BB-8 could make someone on Jakku wealthy). But, economic inflation doesn't affect the cost of slaves that much. Now, you can see why anyone would want to use slaves over droids.

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    Not to mention human slaves are also self-replicating, which means more bang for your buck down the line Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 17:47
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    I disagree with the idea that slaves can build a modern car. To dig a ditch, haul tons of materials - yes, but to do something complicated, you need to know what are you doing, not just dig from here to there. Plus, slaves have low motivation.
    – TimSparrow
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 17:52
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    @TimSparrow Slaves can't design (blueprint) a modern car, but they can always do routine assembly works which don't require creativity. Plus, fear is a great motivation.
    – user931
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 21:48
  • I do have to +1 @TimSparrow for the low motivation. Minimum wage (United States) is below poverty line. Add to that, 50+ hour weeks in a part time position (to avoid benefits) with constant threat of termination and people generally stop working. Being a mistreated slave would be devastating, and from what I've seen in SW, slaves are treated quite poorly. There comes a point where being killed is better than waking up in the morning. Self preservation only goes so far. One slave in SW:CW even commits suicide mostly on screen. That's a lost investment. Droids typically don't do that.
    – Kayot
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 14:03
  • Except when a Jedi shows up. Droids just seem to give up at that point.
    – Kayot
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 14:04

If you define yourself by your power to take life, a desire to dominate, to possess, then you have nothing.

We first must remember that SW universe is a universe of Force. Force has two sides, Light and Dark. In a quote above, Obi-Wan correctly explains to Maul nature of the Dark Side. It is based on primeval urge to posses others, dominate others, and even kill others . Or in Nietzschean terms, the Dark Side is will to power, desire to have power, but not only on objects but on real, live, sentient beings.

Now, in SW universe some droids have personalities, and some characters (especially "good" main characters) form emotional attachments to them. But, generally, droids are just pieces of equipment. To make parallel to real world, you could posses a car, you could drive car around and even smash it, but you cannot dominate car. Cars are indifferent to what happens to them. In a sense, in SW universe, although some droids appear to have personality, they are also mostly indifferent what would happen to them. Look at thousands of droid-soldiers marching to their destruction, or manufacturing droids continuing to work while their facility slides into lava.

Therefore, to fulfill that Dark desire for dominance, beings with attachments to Dark Side need other sentient beings. Master-slave dynamics is very peculiar, and masters sometime have romantic feelings for their slaves, yet they relish in a power to take their life in moment. Zygerrian story arc in Clone Wars cartoon is good example of this twisted behavior. When coupled with economical interests (which certainly exist, despite proliferation of droids), there is clear logical case for existence of various slave owning empires and other organizations.


T1-LB: "I… do not understand. Organics own droids. What is the utility of owning other organics? What else can… slaves provide?" Jarael: "Simple – entertainment value."

And also because the dark side... (something the others mentioned).


It’s pretty simple, it gives a sense of power and slaves don’t need to be fixed, also, biological beings are (generally) more competent in the Star Wars universe. For instance, clones are generally better at combat than battle droids.

  • 1
    You could improve your answer by giving citations :)
    – sudhanva
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 2:44

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