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Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy Paperback – November 16, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0520243842 ISBN-10: 0520243846 Edition: 2nd
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The horror of slavery, says Kevin Bales, is "not confined to history." It is not only possible that slave labor is responsible for the shoes on your feet or your daily consumption of sugar, he writes, the products of forced labor filter even more quietly into a broad portion of daily Western life. "They made the bricks for the factory that made the TV you watch. In Brazil slaves made the charcoal that tempered the steel that made the springs in your car and the blade on your lawnmower.... Slaves keep your costs low and returns on your investments high."

The exhaustive research in Disposable People shows that at least 27 million people are currently enslaved around the world. Bales, considered the world's leading expert on contemporary slavery, reveals the historical and economic conditions behind this resurgence. From Thailand, Mauritania, Brazil, Pakistan, and India, Bales has gathered stories of people in unthinkable conditions, kept in bondage to support their owners' lives. Bales insists that even a small effort from a large number of people could end slavery, and devotes a large chapter to explaining the practical means by which this might be accomplished. "Are we willing to live in a world with slaves?" he asks. As a sign of his commitment, all his royalties from Disposable People will go toward the fight against slavery. --Maria Dolan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

No, University of Surrey lecturer Bales isn't reporting on wage slavery: the stories that slip into the newspaper now and then about workers in sneaker or soccer ball factories in Indonesia or Vietnam earning 20 cents or $1 a week. Bales means 27 million people held in chattel slavery, debt bondage, or contract slavery: "enslaved by violence and held against their wills for purposes of exploitation." Their masters he calls "slaveholders" because they don't claim to own their victims; they control their victims' lives and mobility and gain enormous profits from their labor. Bales investigated five case studies--prostitution in Thailand, water delivery in Mauritania, charcoal making in Brazil, brickmaking in Pakistan, and bonded labor in Indian agriculture--to trace the nature of modern slavery and compare its forms. Three factors explain the new slavery: the population explosion; economic globalization and modernized agriculture; and "the chaos of greed, violence, and corruption created by this economic change in many developing countries." Globalization ties us all to the new slavery, and Bales suggests what the reader can do. Mary Carroll --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 2nd edition (November 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520243846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520243842
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Going undercover to meet slaves and slaveholders, Kevin Bales exposed how modern slavery penetrates the global economy and flows into the things we buy, he is a leading abolitionist in the last great anti-slavery movement. Bales exposed how modern slavery penetrates the global economy in his Pulitzer-nominated book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. The film based on this book, Slavery: A Global Investigation (TrueVision), which he co-wrote for HBO and Channel 4, won a Peabody Award and two Emmys. His book also inspired a project undertaken by seven Magnum photographers, which he helped to design and write, entitled Documenting Disposable People: Contemporary Global Slavery, which was mounted as a touring exhibition and published as a book by Hayward. Scientific American published his findings as a 9-page fully illustrated feature story. Bales was named as the originator of one of "100 World-Changing Discoveries" by the Association of British Universities and as a "visionary who is changing your world" by Utne Reader. Disposable People went on to publication in ten other languages and won the Premio Viareggio for the Italian edition.

In 2001 he co-founded Free the Slaves, the American sister-organization of the UK's Anti-Slavery International, the world's oldest human rights group. In ten years it has helped to liberate thousands of slaves in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, Ivory Coast, and Bangladesh, and work with them to build new lives of dignity. After reading Bales' book Ending Slavery, President Clinton told the plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative: "It tells you that it is a problem we can solve and here's how to do it." Ending Slavery won the 2011 $100,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Promoting World Order. In 2008, with Zoe Trodd, he published To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today's Slaves. In 2009, with Ron Soodalter, he published The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, an expose and plan to make America slave-free for the first time in its history. He is currently writing a book on the relationship between slavery and environmental destruction, and with Jody Sarich a book on forced marriage. He gained his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics.

Hi lives in Brighton, England.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is fascinating, well written, and informative. The author never whines when discussing horrible situations around the world; he simply presents what he has learned from his extensive research. Every issue that I would have wanted to ask the author about is addressed in the book. The book is interesting politically, economically and culturally. I highly recommend it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that should be required reading in schools all over the world. It tells the truth about slavery in our time. There are young African girls being enslaved in major cities like Paris, half-starved and tortured. There are little children in India and Pakistan working unbearable jobs all day every day for no pay. There are the sex slaves working in Thailand, unable to escape, picked up by the corrupt police when they try, and beaten, raped, and returned to the brothel where they are beaten and raped some more. There are the slaves of Mauritania, Brazil, and on and on, each with their own story. Of course there are topics not covered in this book, like the kidnapping and forced prostitution of French, British and American girls in the Middle East and Japan. But this book will motivate you to join Anti-Slavery International and become a modern day abolitionist.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book documents slavery in just five countries, but more importantly it gives a face to victims of slavery. Slaves range is age from 3 years to the age of usefulness. Mr. Bales contrasts American slavery to the slavery of today's global economy. However, horrific and inexcusable American slavery was, in some ways today's slavery is worse. It is certainly far more prevalent than most of us would like to beleive. Mr. Bales gives fairly easy tips on how average people can help combat slavery. My hope is that so many people will read this book that our combined efforts will have a positive and real effect for millions of adults, children, and children yet unborn.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By April McCallum on August 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
In DISPOSABLE PEOPLE: New Slavery in the Global Economy, abolitionist and author Kevin Bales makes a clarion call for the ending of modern-day slavery around the world.

This book is well researched and documented through the author's personal experience going undercover to meet slaves and slaveholders. His investigation of slavery took him around the globe to Mauritania, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, and India.

Even with the resurgence of an abolitionist movement in modern times, the fact is, there are an estimated 27 million people living in slavery around the globe, yet many still escape our awareness or acknowledgement. Why?

Bales argues that the increasing globalization of the economy--supply and demand--has fueled the "need" for coerced labor in the global supply chain, including forced child labor and debt bondage. What many readers will find interesting is his economic rationale for why slavery is not as profitable or sustainable as fair labor practices.

In what is referred to as the emergence of a "new slavery," he asserts that modern-day slaves, unlike traditional forms of slavery, are not always considered a long-term investment. That means human beings lose their value. Many are viewed by slave masters as cheap, usable and sometimes (as in the case of sex slavery) reusable, "disposable" people.

Bales also illuminates the urgent need to raise individual and global social consciousness by connecting the dots from the slave to the end-user. He challenges our norms, by highlighting the necessity to re-think our purchase and consumption habits and preferences, and how supply and demand can directly affect slavery. The book challenges political, corporate *and* personal consumption mindsets and behaviors.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sadly, it is not true that human slavery was abolished back in the 1800s, and in fact there are still millions of slaves in the world. There are slaves working in third world brothels, mines, farms, and sweatshops. Even some domestic servants in Western nations are technically enslaved. Here Kevin Bales explains how this is a new and modernized type of slavery. The old "classic" slavery, in which masters outwardly and legally owned other people, has disappeared around the world, except for in the oddly backward nation of Mauritania. The new slavery is not based on ethnic or religious subjugation and punishment, but is the outcome of globalized economics, as certain industries inevitably gravitate toward near-zero cost labor.

Most modern slaves are victims of "debt bondage," in which businessmen or middlemen make poor and desperate people work off their debts, but through fraudulent accounting and trickery make it impossible for the debts to be paid off, therefore gaining forced and unpaid labor. This phenomenon is tragically common in many nations, and tens of millions of people are subjected to hopeless lives of economic subjugation. Bales explores this modern slavery in several nations that are trying to convince the world that it doesn't happen within their borders, or try to justify this bondage with dissembling arguments that are disgustingly similar to those used by the old Southern plantation owners in America.

Bales does a pretty good job of describing how real, quantifiable economics and globalization processes bring this human tragedy about. However, this aspect of his analysis could be strengthened, to make a more effective argument with policy makers.
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