Justin Guay


“Slavery existed before money or law” (Hochschild 2005). Indeed the “peculiar institution” is one of humanity’s oldest. It has, however, evolved and manifested itself quite distinctly in different periods of history. In contrast to historical views of slavery that are associated with Chattel Slavery, numerous forms fall under the umbrella term of contemporary slavery. The United Nations (U.N.) Working Group recognizes such radically new forms as: child labor, children in conflict, trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, and the sale of children. The International Labor Office (ILO) approaches the topic through the lens of forced labor. The ILO recognizes slavery and abductions, compulsory participation in public works projects, forced labor in agriculture, domestic workers, bonded labor, forced labor imposed by the military, forced labor in the trafficking of persons, as well as some aspects of prison labor and rehabilitation through work. A linking factor between these varied forms of contemporary slavery, according to the U.N. Working Group, is the role that poverty plays in creating vulnerability. This link is echoed in the work of Kevin Bales, arguably the world’s foremost expert on contemporary slavery. According to Bales, contemporary slavery is “the complete control of a person, for economic exploitation, by violence, or the threat of violence.” Using this definition, it is possible to explore the economic links that all forms of slavery, despite their unique characteristics, share.

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