Due to (1) the world's massive population increase since World War II, (2) the ability of capitalists to forge covert, corrupt relationships with governmental and law enforcement agencies, and (3) systemic tactics involving trickery and violence, slavery now flourishes without reaching the public's consciousness.
Additionally, Bales contends that with some exceptions, slavery's practices have shifted significantly in contemporary society. Old Slavery was characterized by the following characteristics:
- legal ownership asserted
- high purchase cost of slaves
- low profits
- shortage of potential slaves
- long-term relationship between slaves (including their families) and slave masters
- slaves "maintained" to work over the life-course
- race differences important
- legal ownership avoided
- low purchase cost of slaves
- high profits
- surplus of potential slaves
- short-term relationship between individual slaves and capitalists
- slaves disposable
- race differences less important
Of course slavery would not flourish if there was not a massive consumer society demanding the goods slave systems produce, and this is where Bales argues citizens from high-income countries share significant responsibility.
The following two YouTube videos show slavery as it exists in rural areas of Brazil and illustrate many of the points made in Disposable People -- how those in poverty are tricked into slavery, kept enslaved through violence, the corrupt relationships between law enforcement and slavers, and how slave systems contribute to goods purchased in wealthy countries. The videos are good teaching tools to augment this great text.
Another powerful, eye-opening reading on contemporary slavery that also illustrates points made in Disposable People: The Dark Side of Dubai.