It to his ignorance of the state and society’s

It is true that the ‘peculiar institution’ of
slavery is one of humanity’s oldest and most important social practices,
existing ‘before money or written law’ (Hochschild, 2005: 2). Throughout
history, it has, however, evolved and manifested itself fairly prominently and
continues to do so today. In contrast to traditional, historical views that are
associated with chattel slavery, several forms fall under the expansive
umbrella term of contemporary slavery. Bales, the foremost expert on
contemporary slavery, suggests that in order to combat slavery today, we must
begin to recognise and understand it through a contemporary lens. According to Bales (2000, 426), contemporary
slavery is ‘the complete control of a person, for economic exploitation, by
violence, or the threat of violence’. The contributing factor which
characterizes and links the victims of contemporary slavery ‘is the
individual relationship between (at least) two people’ (Bales, 2006: 1). However, unless the term ‘modern slavery’ can
clearly be distinguished from other related social phenomena (migration,
labour, debt) such statements are considered worthless; for which himself Bales
is guilty. This essay will firstly examine the legal definition of
slavery; followed by detailed analysis of Bales’ definition. This essay will
look at the political implications of using Bales’ definition, arguing that his
conceptualization makes short-sighted proposals due to his ignorance of the
state and society’s structure. This essay will then utilize the critique of
O’Connell Davidson and consider Patterson’s focus on the historical accuracy of
Bales’ claims to address the immediate weaknesses of Bales’ definition. Firstly,
by questioning Bales’ three essential components of slavery; then by
investigating Bales’ seven problematic distinctions between “old” and “new” slavery; key here are his distinctions of legality and race. After
looking at these criticisms, this essay will then question the status of
‘modern slavery’. This essay will critically examine liberal tendency to
imagine the political and social order as numerous opposing binaries: ‘slavery/free
labour’, ‘legal/illegal’, ‘victim/criminal’, which are often racialized and
gendered and serve to articulate particular identities in a way that silences ‘the
challenging voices of the global “subalterns”‘(Grundell, 2015) This essay will
conclude that new abolitionists have created an extremely distorted representation
of slavery historically, creating policies that are politically unhelpful. Instead,
we must remove ourselves from the conceptual binaries of liberal society and draw
attention to the ‘incredibly rich, nuanced and interdisciplinary body of
scholarship on transatlantic slavery which actually speaks very powerfully to
questions about domination and unfreedom in the contemporary world’ (O’Connell
Davidson, 2016). 

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