A Reflection on Modern Day Slavery (Sorry this is late!)

After reading Purchasing Power and browsing through the Disposable People website, I, like the majority of my classmates, was astounded by the current number of slaves used in today’s production. The fact that the world’s commerce uses a total of 27 million slaves is absolutely disgusting. While this number leaves me in shock, it sadly can be understood (not to be confused with rationalized or justified) with a social, political, and economic understanding of capitalism. I admit, I do not have this thorough understanding, but it is nonetheless helpful to outline some of the larger transition points in history that have brought our economy to where it is now. After all, it is impossible to understand modern day slavery apart from capitalism. It simply does not exist. Capitalism is inherent in the transformation of slavery. Similarly, you cannot understand Capitalism apart from Industrialism and Industrialism apart from Feudalism. The history of these economic systems is crucial to our understanding of the systems that enable modern day slavery.

When capitalism emerged, fueled by the Enclosure act, colonization, and the industrial revolution, commerce in human beings escalated like never before. People realized the enormous amounts of profit that could be gained by exploiting labor and this abundance of profit made the incentive for producing unprecedented. Capitalism made people dependent on the market. It was no longer something you chose, but rather a compulsion. This system worked great for the wealthy, but has and still is causing serious suffering to millions. The most unfortunate part of it all (and this is where fair trade comes in) is that, in a capitalistic market, people don’t know the social relationship and circumstances of what they consume. As Disposable People points out, this is very present in the shrimping industry.

Disclaimer: This post was not meant to bash capitalism. I simply think it is important to give new world slavery a historical context in our reflections and analyses. Quite honestly, I constantly find myself frustrated with the overwhelming amount of historical information I don't know. There seems to be endless prerequisites to understanding anything these days. Especially when you are thrown a statistic that there are 27 million slaves today. How do we understand it all? How did it all come to be? How can we (actually) organize and change it? How do we filter out out the truth when everyone has had an agenda since the beginning of time? So much I don't know haha I guess I'm just rambling.

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