Letter: Slave to accuracy

January 26, 2001

Contrary to the impression conveyed in the interview with Kevin Bales ("Slavery on our doorstep", THES, January 19), the existence of and increase in modern-day slavery together with the reasons for it are not new discoveries.

They have been the subject of extensive analysis and debate in international academic circles for the past three decades. This journal, among others, has published numerous articles detailing the presence and the cause of contemporary unfree labour.

Many of the characteristics of modern slavery - that it is on the increase, is compatible with capitalist production and is no longer permanent - were raised during the 1970s debate about debt bondage and the mode of production in Indian agriculture and have been widely discussed ever since. Most involved in these earlier debates had, like Bales, conducted fieldwork. Bales says his was a voyage of discovery. The route is well-travelled.

Tom Brass
The Journal of Peasant Studies

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