Disposable People

by Kevin Bales

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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323

Kevin Bales's Disposable People is an in-depth, critical, and data-driven analysis of the existence of modern-day slavery around the globe. Bales mostly studies the existence of slavery in what he calls the "developing" countries of the Global South. His work details and analyzes how this slavery is often rooted in the existence of a globalized capitalist system that profits off the labor of enslaved individuals.

Countries of the Global North, such as the United States, directly profit from the labor of slaves who are forced to work in areas such as mining industries, chocolate industries, and jewelry industries. Bales notes that people seem to focus on the history of a specific type of slavery: chattel and plantation slavery, which was technically abolished in most countries by the end of the nineteenth century. He asserts that, because this type of slavery is said to be abolished, the general public of more economically developed nations tend to ignore the reality of slavery that exists across the world today. People are content to think that slavery is a horror of the past, except for perhaps a few horrible instances, rather than recognizing that slavery exists as a global problem in the modern day.

Bales's solutions to the global issue of slavery involves a series of interventions on both the governmental and individual scale. He believes that government rehabilitation programs and stricter laws designed to limit the ability of slave traffickers to transport people are vital. However, equally vital is a more aware public. Consumer demand for cheap products is one of the major forces driving the global slavery problem, and Bales encourages people to think more critically about how they are spending their money. If consumers hold corporations and governments accountable for humane labor practices, then the incentive to use slave labor will diminish. This, Bales believes, will help reduce the usage of slavery worldwide while also spurring governments to tighten restrictions to prevent further exploitation.

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