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
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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
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