Kevin then surely prior forms of slaveryKevin then surely prior forms of slavery

Kevin Bales in a serious of contemporary works, has attempted
to distinguish between traditional and modern-day slavery. He argues that
slavery has never vanished; instead it has developed into a different form,
however the primary fact of one person governing another remains the same
(Bales 1999:12). He explains that the vast increase in populations and their resulting
vulnerability, plus government corruption, are the critical factors for the
rise of modern slavery (Bales 1999:14). In 1999, Bales published an approximation
of 27 million slaves in the modern world (O’Connell Davidson 2015:7).

Nevertheless, his definition has been prone to a multitude
of different criticism, and in this essay, I will demonstrate how Bales’
definition of modern slavery is indefinitely flawed. I will first focus on what
Bales’ identifies as the transcendental essence of slavery, before highlighting
its drawbacks. Next, I will discuss Bales general forms of new slavery, while
simultaneously revealing its criticisms. Proceeding that, I will then illustrate
what Bales considers are the seven basic ways traditional slavery differs from
modern slavery, which I will undermine along the way.

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Primarily, modern-Abolitionist Kevin Bales, argues that there
is a transcendental essence of slavery. Ultimately, he thinks that the most
critical dimension that all types of slavery depends on is control (Bales 2012:282).
He adds that the principal way to achieve this is through violence, which
coerces and controls the slave in place (Bales 1999:19). However, if Bales’
definition of slavery really is transcendental, then surely prior forms of
slavery would always be about control through violence? Well, Maria Elena Diaz’s
(2006) research on slaves involved in copper-mining in El Cobre, a village in
East Cuba, between 1670 and 1870, certainly contradicts Bales’ argument in this
instance. For example, although they were legally and socially ascribed the
status of ‘slave’ by the 1670 Inventory of Slaves (Diaz 2006:37); their actual
experience was not characterised by violence or control whatsoever. Indeed, it
was found that: they were not under direct, everyday control of any private
contractor or representative of the King, they were not bound by violence or
its threat to commence in the required labour and they were not regulated or orchestrated
by any ’employer’ too (Diaz 2006:23).

Similarly, in certain slave societies, explicitly enslaved
females sometimes occupied positions within the plantation household that enabled
them to exploit the labour of other slaves, which in-fact mirrored the same methods
of the slave owners (Moitt 2008:164). Therefore, it is clear that Bales’ transcendental
definition of slavery as principally controlled through violence, is flawed
because there is evidence of control-free, violence-free slavery.

Furthermore, Bales identifies that there are three
overarching forms of new slavery. Firstly, he explains there is Chattel Slavery.
This is when a person is ‘captured, born or sold into permanent servitude and
ownership might be asserted’ (Bales 1999:19). Bales believes this form is most often
found in Northern and Western Africa, plus some Arab countries, but it epitomises
a small quantity of modern slavery (Bales 1999:19).

Next, he identifies Debt Bondage, as the most common form of
slavery in the world today. He defines it as ‘a person pledges him or herself
against a loan of money, but the length and nature of the service are not
defined, and the labour does not reduce the original debt’. This debt can be
passed down to subsequent generations, thus enslaving offspring’ (Bales
1999:20). Bales elaborates that debt bondage only comes to fruition, when the
debt and price rate and deceitfully calculated in a manner which maintains the
family permanently in debt and when violence is utilised to implement the bondage
(Bales 1999:167-8). However, there are a number of criticisms that can be made
of Bales here. For instance, Bales disregards the idea that people can be bound
to debt to an employer, without actually being enslaved, because often the work
can only be as detrimental as a plethora of other types of labour in the
developing world, and many believe it is better than having no labour at all or
suffering hunger (O’Connell Davidson 2015:38).

Equally, some forms of debt bonded prostitution in South
East Asia, although are considered modern slavery, do not always encompass violence
or an absence of payment (O’Connell Davidson 2010:250). Thereby, in this instance,
Bales’ explanation of debt bondage as a modern form of the new slavery, has
been proven to be a flawed concept in areas.

Finally, Bales argues that Contract Slavery is the second
most popular form of slavery today. Contract slavery illustrates how modern
labour relations have been manipulated to conceal slavery, by contracts that
seemingly offer employment, but in actual fact, when the workers arrive at
their new place of work, they are coerced into slavery (Bales 1999:20). Bales explains
that ‘the contract is used an enticement to track an individual into slavery,
as well as a way of making the slavery look legitimate’ (Bales 1999:20). However,
Bales’ explanation of contract slavery has been faced criticism, such as ‘by
insisting that contract labour falls under the category of slavery, Bales does
not distinguish between servitude as a relation of unequal exchange and
enslavement as a property relation’ (Parreñas et al 2012:1023). Thus, it
is apparent that Bales’ definition of modern slavery is indefinitely flawed.

In continuing with his definition of slavery, Bales’
explicitly identifies seven basic ways that the ‘old’ slavery contrasts from
the ‘new’. In continuing with my line of argument, once again, Bales’
explanation of the ‘new’ slavery can be heavily undermined. Thus, I will allude
to each of Bales’ seven polarisations, before illustrating how they are flawed.

Therefore, to begin with, Bales argues that the nature of
new slavery has resulted in a lack of legal ownership being placed on said
slave, in comparison to older forms of slavery (Bales 1999:14). Indeed, Bales
(1999:25) states that contemporary slavery appropriates the financial value of
individuals while maintaining them under ‘coercive control’ – but without
avowing ownership or accepting accountability for their survival – highlighting
a transformation from ‘ownership to control and appropriation’. Bales argues
that shift is seen to of prevailed, since the fact that slavery is now illegal
in most contemporary societies (Patterson 2011:6).

However, there are a number of criticisms that can be made
of Bales’ above differentiation. Orlando Patterson, in particular, rivals Bales
in this instance and argues that while it is true that virtually no society
legally excuses slavery today, the state under preceding systems of slavery
varied broadly (Patterson 2011:7). Patterson explains that in the more
progressive societies with recognised legal systems, rights of ownership were undeniably
authorised in places such as the modern Americas and Ancient Greece and Rome; however
most traditional societies did not have such established legal systems, and he
argues that it is ‘anachronistic’ plus ‘legally ethnocentric’ to generalise
that legal ownership was prevalent in all old systems of slavery (Patterson

In addition, while slavery is generally declared to be
prohibited in neighbouring societies nowadays, it has been made evident by a
number of sociologist’s that some extreme forms of modern slavery are still
legal. For instance, the trafficking of women through the foreign-bride
industry is still legal in the United States and virtually all global
countries, despite the fact that the ‘conditions of these women often amount to
modern enslavement’ (Kim 2011:481).  Similarly,
in low-economically-developed countries like Mauritania and Niger, modern
servitude has been found to still legally exist. This is exemplified by
Abdelkader, who found that in Mauritania,’70,000 souls are in a state of
servitude’ (Abdelkader 2004:48; while in ‘the Republic of Niger, there are some
people who are not full-fledged citizens’ (Abdelkader 2004:2).

Moreover, even abolishment laws in certain countries, are
completely disregarded. For example, even though in Pakistan (in 1992) and in
Nepal (2000) outlawed bondage labour in retort to international pressure, it
has been illustrated that in both countries ‘the government have systematically
failed to honour or defend the fundamental rights of the working population to
live in freedom’ (Breman 2013:8).  Therefore,
in this instance, Bales’ definition of modern slavery is utterly flawed once
again. The notion of legal ownership becoming much less important in the
context of modern slavery has been undermined, as many countries as
exemplified, still allow legal ownership to be prevalent.

Secondly, Bales argues that in the ‘new’ slavery, the value
of slaves have ‘plummeted’ because there are so many possibly obtainable (Bales
1999:14). Indeed, Bales claims that slaves were relatively expensive in
traditional slavery, whereas the purchase price today is considerably lower
(Patterson 2011:6). However, Bales’ claim here is simply improper once one
researches beyond the Americas. Indeed, the price of slaves diversely varied in
the period of traditional slavery. For instance, in the Ancient Near East,
medieval Ireland and Iceland and many traditional African societies, slaves
were considered very valuable and could be quite expensive – for instance, a
slave in medieval Iceland was worth the price of 24 cows (Patterson 2011:7-8). However,
in several other areas, the price of a slave could be awfully low, for example:
the worth of a decent horse in 16th century Burma was worth 40
Indian slaves; and typically, during 1872 in Sudan, women were sold for $5, a
single cow cost approximately 10 slaves and even young males were sold for ‘as
little as 6 chickens a head’ (Patterson 1982:166). Overall, Bales definition of
what modern slavery consists of is evidently flawed. In this case, it has been
exemplified that the cost of a slave hasn’t dramatically dropped from
traditional slavery, because in certain areas, the price was incredibly low
back then.

Following on, Bales claims that modern slavery is now an extremely
high profit business, whereas previously slavery provided much lower profits
(Patterson 2011:6). Bales argues that this shift has occurred due to the fact
that slaves are much cheaper to purchase and that new slaves can be treated
much more disposably (Bales 1999:14). He explains that in old slavery, a
downside was the cost of maintaining slaves who were too unproductive – the
young or old (Bales 1999:25). However, the new slavery ‘mimics the world
economy’ by moving away from ‘ownership and fixed asset management’, instead
focusing on making use of ‘resources or processes’ (Bales 1999:25).

On the contrary, once again, Bales’ identification of new
slavery in this instance can be completely destabilized. For example, even
Bales himself admits that ‘the exact contribution of slaves to the world
economy is very difficult to measure because no reliable information is
available for most types of slavery’ (Bales 1999:22). In addition, it has been
noted that in some areas of traditional slavery, indeed slavery was profitable.
For instance, the plantation’s in southern United States and in the West Indies
were extremely profitable, especially towards the end of traditional slavery
(Patterson 1999:8). Indeed, in pre-Columbian West Africa and the Sahel, the auction
and usage of slaves were profitable too (Lovejoy 2000:171). Therefore, Bales’
argument in this instance is simply incorrect, because it has been highlighted
that profitable slavery was prevalent in traditional slavery too, thus
reinforcing that Bales’ overall definition is indefinitely flawed.

Fourthly, Bales further identifies a marked difference
between the old and new slavery: that today there are loads of potential
slaves, as opposed to there being a shortage in older times (Patterson 2011:6).
Bales argues this shift is down to population growth and increased vulnerability
(Bales 2012:288). However, typically, Bales’ claim in this instance is very
flawed. As Patterson counteracts, there was no scarcity of possible slaves in
many traditional slave societies and Bales was simply misled by merely focusing
on the U.S (Patterson 2011:8). For example, when Cuba began to swiftly develop
its slave plantation system during the 19th century, there was such
an abundance of slaves in West Africa that the owners of the plantations had
absolutely no trouble in buying and increasing their mass of slaves (Klein
1999:41). Similarly, in the 19th century, slave markets in what is
now Western Nigeria and the Sahel were often inundated with slaves, succeeding
the collapse of the Yoruba Oyo Empire and the Fulani jihad (Lovejoy 2000:195). Thus,
it is apparent that Bales’ definition of what constitutes modern slavery, is
heavily flawed again. This is the case, in light of the fact that, there were a
multitude of possible slaves in certain places during the period of old slavery

Furthermore, Bales illustrates an additional differentiation
between the old slavery and the new: beforehand slavery was a long-term
relationship, whereas today it is a short-term one (Patterson 2011:6). Bales
explains that the nature of new slavery has diminished the period of a person
would typically be enslaved, because it is not profitable to keep them when
they can’t be directly beneficial (Bales 1999:15). However, Orlando Patterson
again counteracts Bales’ claims here. Patterson argues that the millions of
debt bondsmen in India and Pakistan, considered to be slaves by Bales, are
embroiled in a long-term relationship because they inherited their status and
original debts which subsequently both accumulate and are passed through
generation to generation (Patterson 2011:8). Plus, the modern Restavek system
of child slavery in Haiti is undeniably considered a long-term relationship
(Patterson 2011:8).

In addition, there are many cases of long-term relationships
between trafficked prostitutes and their pimps. For example, many East-Asian
who marry foreign servicemen are ultimately coerced into prostitution upon
returning to America with their new-found husbands and face a life-time of
bondage and prostitution, amounting to levels of slavery (Raymond 2001:50). Similarly,
it is evident that there are long-term relationships of debt bondage found in
the U.S and Europe today. For instance, many Asian ‘Snakeheads’ (Chinese gangs
that smuggle people to other countries) sustain long-term relationships with
their victims by incurring human-smuggling debts often accumulating to a total
that takes the best part of a life-time to pay off (Patterson 2011:9). Overall,
Bales’ argument that short-term relationships are symptomatic of modern-slavery
has been proven inconsistent, reinforcing the notion that Bales’ version of
modern slavery is flawed.

Penultimately, Bales’ identifies that a marked variation
from the old slavery to the new, is that slaves are now disposable commodities.
In contrast to traditional slavery where slaves were kept by their masters for
as long as possible, slaveholders now can get all the labour they can out of
their slaves and then dump them (Bales 1999:14). Bales explains this shift has
occurred in order to achieve greater economic efficiency, as ‘useless and
unprofitable infants, the elderly and the sick or injured’ are discarded (Bales
1999:25). However, Bales’ claims here can come under criticism again. For
instance, it is obvious that the archetypal American pimp who depends on his
plethora of prostitutes (the average is three per pimp in America), would barely
contemplate them to be disposable and the same applies for the Snakeheads and
their trafficked victims too (Patterson 2011:9).

In addition, women held in domestic servitude in Europe and
the U.S are often essential labour for their owners who count on on them to
work 16-18 hour days doing domestic work so they can pursue their own needs and
interests (Patterson 2011:9). Thus, this notion has been made evident after a
news story emerged, detailing how two young West African women were released
from slavery in New Jersey by police, after they were held captive as essential
long-term labour for their owners’ hair-braiding business (Ryan 2010). Therefore,
it is clear that Bales’ identification that disposability of slaves is a marked
modification of modern slavery from traditional slavery has been shown to be
fraudulent; thus, underpinning the overarching argument that Bales’ version of
modern slavery is flawed.

A final basic way that Bales identifies marks the contrast
from the old slavery to the new slavery, is that under prior arrangements of slavery
there were imperative ethnic and racial differences between their masters and
slaves, however today such differences are of less importance (Patterson
2011:6). Bales elucidates that the criteria of enslavement in modern slavery
does not concern ‘colour, tribe or religion’; instead they target ‘weakness, gullibility
and deprivation’ (Bales 1999:11). However, this is not the case, as found by the
U.K Anti-Slavery International who explain that in-fact ‘victims of slavery and
slave-like practices frequently belong to minority groups, particular racial groups
or categories of people who are especially vulnerable to a wide range of
discriminatory acts’ (Anti-Slavery International 2008:5). For instance, an overwhelming
number of women trafficked into prostitution in India come from Nepal where there
is an ethno-somatic variance (primarily lighter complexion) (Patterson 2011:9).
In addition, in Europe, many of the trafficked women derive from ethnically dissimilar
Eastern European countries or from Africa (Aronowitz 2006:88). Thereby, Bales’
remark that ethnic and racial differences are of less importance between slaves
and their masters in the new slavery has been successfully counteracted, thus strengthening
the notion that Bales’ definition of modern slavery is flawed.

In conclusion, it is obvious that Kevin Bales definition of
modern slavery is indefinitely flawed. This has been made aware through direct and
empirical criticisms being made of his transcendental idea of slavery, his general
forms of the new slavery and his seven basic ways that modern slavery differs
from traditional slavery. I believe that my discussion of Bales in this essay,
will lead theorists to really question if one could ever define really define
what slavery is and the manner in which it unfolds.