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Over the last two decades, fighting modern slavery and human trafficking have become a cause célèbre. Yet, large numbers of researchers, nongovernmental organizations, trade unions, workers, and others who would seem like natural allies of the fight against modern slavery and trafficking are hugely skeptical of these movements. They object to anti-slavery and anti-trafficking framings of the problems, and are skeptical of the "new abolitionist" movement. Why? In this Introduction, we explain how our edited book tackles key controversies surrounding the anti-slavery and anti-trafficking movements and scholarship head-on. We have assembled champions and sceptics of anti-slavery to explore the fissures and fault-lines that surround efforts to fight modern slavery and human trafficking today. These include: whether efforts to fight modern slavery displace or crowd out support for labor and migrant rights; whether and to what extent efforts to fight modern slavery mask, naturalize, and distract from racial, gendered, and economic inequality; and whether contemporary anti-slavery and anti-trafficking crusaders’ use of history are accurate and appropriate.
Chapter 4 examines the legal, economic, and political life of the Free Womb law in the Colombian Pacific and the making of new racialized labor structures. For the first time, enslaved women were granted limited legal rights of maternity and motherhood over their children—at least those born after the promulgation of the 1821 law, which was at times malleably interpreted by lowland masters to defend their claims over Free Womb children. By carefully examining notes of sale, mining inventories, dowries, and wills, this chapter charts the formation in the northern Pacific lowlands of a parallel market for Free Womb children, which instantiated a new and at-times confusing regime of property rights. Reversals of the 1821 law are the subject of the chapter’s last section, which looks at extension of Free Womb bondage, partly inspired by the British Caribbean apprenticeship model established under the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, in the aftermath of Colombia’s first civil war (1839–1842).
After surveying how a capitalist culture and corresponding associationism expanded throughout the Pacific lowlands in the 1840s, Chapter 6 chronicles a final abolitionist movement in Colombia leading in the early 1850s to a final abolition law that compensated slaveholders. This chapter offers the first in-depth study of compensation in Colombia and Chocó specifically, a befuddling bureaucratic process for both lowland officials and ex-masters. Notwithstanding administrative challenges, former slaveholders in the lowlands circulated the government-sponsored “manumission bills” well into the 1850s, whether to pay off their private debts or fortify their descendants’ wealth via their last will and testament. These haunting records lay bare the immediate financial afterlife of slavery in the Colombian Pacific, revealing how enslaved lowlanders’ “paper bodies” continued to fuel the postslavery economy. Finally, the chapter examines the lowlands’ contending postslavery racial geographies and economies into the 1850s. Frontier authorities and former slaveholders sought to retain gradual emancipation rule and devised new methods of social control but had little success implementing such measures in the historically autonomous Colombian Pacific. On the coastal frontier, a social universe daily managed by independent black bogas and gold miners, the principal challenge for white rulers after emancipation was black autonomy.
The recession of the 1970s saw the advent of financialised capitalism and a renewed focus on cost containment in health care. At the same time, new identity politics had displaced the old politics of distribution associated with the welfare state. The political contraction of the welfare state, together with the spread of ‘precarity’ in employment via zero-hours contracts, and the undermining of work conditions, sick pay and pensions have been facilitated by a recasting of personal responsibility. Strong flows of biological, psychological, social, cultural, spatial, symbolic and, especially, material asset flows are conducive to good health and longevity, while weak flows are associated with poor health and premature death. Ideological assaults on the welfare state have been major contributors to growing material and social inequalities. Financial capitalism has witnessed an accelerating rate of mental as well as physical health problems in line with the fracturing of society. The period 1960–2010 set the scene for what many at the time of writing (2020) see as a severe crisis in welfare care.
This article reviews three books that offer thought-provoking insights on a central political science question, namely the relationship between capitalism and democracy in the twenty-first century. First, ‘Democracy and Prosperity’ by Iversen and Soskice posits a symbiotic relationship between capitalism and democracy. Advanced capital thrives on nationally rooted institutions, hence it needs democratic politics. A majority of voters ask for pro-advanced-capital reforms, hence democratic politics needs advanced capital. Second, ‘Capitalism, Alone’ by Milanovic depicts a troubled coexistence between capitalism and democracy. The former's tendency to concentrate economic and political power in the hands of the few is the main reason why democratic politics is under pressure. Third, ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ by Zuboff suggests a negative relationship between digital capitalism and democracy. Surveillance capitalism increasingly acts as a control means of individuals' behaviour, which undermines democracy at its roots. The last section brings the three contributions together. It maintains that a mutually beneficial coexistence between capitalism and democracy currently faces both internal (from within) and external (from without) challenges. In line with Milanovic and Zuboff, it argues that the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the few is the most apparent from-within challenge. Drawing on Milanovic, it contends that rise of China as a global power combining capitalism with non-democracy challenges the relationship between capitalism and democracy from without. Finally, it contends that the environmental question and the pandemic represent two windows of opportunity for democracy to recover lost ground and re-establish a more balanced relationship with capitalism.
“The Asiatic Modal Imagination” traces the repeated linking of the “Asiatic” with futurity in the Western capitalist imagination. It describes the multiple historical moments where the “Asiatic” is invoked speculatively (from the late nineteenth century to the present) in order to better understand the dual role that Asiatic racialization plays in serving narratives of capital as a driver of universal human history. This racialization occurs via the speculative tropes of a peculiar mixture of genres - world history, political economic tracts, and science fiction. Such discourses and modalities are rampant in the political-economic knowledges produced around the “rise” of China. The chapter unfolds this relationship between Asiatic racialization and future histories of capitalism in the work of Asian American science fiction writers Ted Chiang and Ken Liu. It analyzes these writers for how they interrupt the universalizing narratives of capitalism enabled by speculating on Asia.
This chapter examines Asian-Latin American (literary) studies, as both a methodology and dynamic cultural production, first by tracing its precarious relation to established academic disciplines (area studies, ethnic studies, literary studies), and second by analyzing the literature of two Peruvian writers of Asian descent - Doris Moromisato and Siu Kam Wen - the former a queer poet of Okinawan descent and the latter a first-generation Chinese immigrant writer. I focus on Doris Moromisato’s literary texts that explore the figure of the dekasegi - the Latin Americans of Japanese descent who work in Japan as migrant workers - and Siu Kam Wen’s novel Viaje a ĺtaca that highlights the centrality of the Chinese coolie in Latin American history. The racialized and gendered figures of both the coolie and the dekasegi embody the complex intersections between race-class-gender-sexuality and labor in global capitalism, thereby calling into question dominant notions of nation, subjectivity, and migration. Furthermore, by troubling the boundaries of epistemological frameworks and working against the grammar of US exceptionalism, I contend that Asian-Latin American studies engages in an “Asian Americanist critique” that draws on alternative narratives and critical histories to envision counterhegemonic subjectivities and undermined global connectivities.
Over the past 600 years, commodity frontiers – processes and sites of the incorporation of resources into the expanding capitalist world economy – have absorbed ever more land, ever more labour and ever more natural assets. In this paper, we claim that studying the global history of capitalism through the lens of commodity frontiers and using commodity regimes as an analytical framework is crucial to understanding the origins and nature of capitalism, and thus the modern world. We argue that commodity frontiers identify capitalism as a process rooted in a profound restructuring of the countryside and nature. They connect processes of extraction and exchange with degradation, adaptation and resistance in rural peripheries. To account for the enormous variety of actors and places involved in this history is a critical challenge in the social sciences, and one to which global history can contribute crucial insights.
Chapter one analyses the geneses of ethno-nationalism in postcolonial states by highlighting the three key elements of ethno-nationalist politics: the modernist response to primordial attachments in the process of nation-building, the active role and passive consequences of colonialism, and the influence of bourgeois and petty bourgeois classes under capitalism. Critically engaging with seminal scholarship in relevant fields by Clifford Geertz, Donald Horowitz, Antonio Gramsci, and Partha Chatterjee, my analysis in this chapter underscores that ethno-nationalism in postcolonial states is, to a great extent, the outcome of a combined force of all three elements. While the three elements highlighted in my analysis of ethno-nationalism are not exclusive aspects, ethno-nationalism in postcolonial states primarily draws on the elements of nation-building, colonialism, and capitalism. I substantiate this claim with the case of anticolonial nationalist movements in India. I demonstrate how conditions created by colonialism, capitalism, and the modernist vision of the nascent Indian state gave the nationalist movement an ethno-nationalist character that ultimately led to the partition of the country along religious lines.
Chapter 2 explores the recurring dramatic stereotype of the hungry servant in plays such as John Lyly’s Campaspe, Massinger’s The Bashful Lover and The Picture, and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. It argues that the representation of hungry servants mystifies the conditions of the average servant’s existence, representing hunger resulting from deprivation as an insatiable appetite. It emphasises that this process of mystification is comic in function, binding the audience together through the production of normative laughter. But it also demonstrates that the servingman’s appetite could be deployed as a means to explore England’s nascent capitalist system. Lastly, the chapter considers the relationship between the hungry servant and gender. Although female servants are rarely driven by appetite, the representation of hungry male servants constitutes a significant means through which the theatre explored the complex relationships between husbands, wives and their servants.
This essay presents a historical and critical overview of the antebellum plantation romance, or novels written by southerners and those sympathetic to the slaveholding South that deliberately manage the representation of the plantation space for a broader reading public. These representations, in their attempts to shape the image of the U.S. South around the idea of a unified, pastoral community, are reliant on the networks that made plantation culture possible in the first place: global trading, the rise of industrialism, and, of course, slavery. As such, the plantation in works such as John Pendleton Kennedy’s Swallow Barn (1832), George Tucker’s The Valley of Shenandoah (1824), Maria J. McIntosh’s The Lofty and the Lowly (1852), and William Gilmore Simms’s Woodcraft (1852/54) emerges as a heterogeneous entity. With these dynamic elements at play, despite its perceived regional limitations, the genre of the southern plantation romance reveals the conflicting forces that were the main currents in nineteenth-century culture and society.
Silvestri interviews McCloskey about her forthcoming book, ‘Beyond Behaviorism, Positivism, and Neo-Institutionalism in Economics’, critical of recent economics, especially of neo-institutionalism. Neo-institutionalism uses the ugly character ‘Herr Max U’ as its central idea: the elevation of Prudence to the only virtue. Institutions are mainly intermediate, not ultimate, causes in society. Ethics, rhetoric, identity, ideology, and ideas matter. McCloskey's turn to defending liberalism is in the background of her critique of behaviorism, positivism, and neo-institutionalism as anti-liberal, reducing the analysis of people to a model of childish slaves. Liberalism is the theory of non-slave adults. Of the big ideas of the past few centuries, only liberalism treats people with suitable dignity, and permits them to have a go, and make others rich. Neo-institutionalism shares the two sins of modern Samuelsonian economics: a devotion of mere existence proofs; and a deviation to arbitrary tests of statistical ‘significance’. And in its tale of a rise of ‘capitalism’, it shares the errors of amateur economic history. The better word for the modern economic world of the Great Enrichment – fully 3,000% increases in real income per person – is ‘innovism’. Neo-institutionalism, as the method of historical economics, must be replaced by ‘Humanomics’.
Chapter 5 explores the relationship between material insecurity and publics in Kenya. It provides empirical insight into the relationship between welfare and publics in a postcolonial context. Material wellbeing was a constant concern for the average resident in Mombasa. More widely in Kenya, and built up through the British colonial state, welfare has been a source of political grievance or advantage, as well as an individual concern. This has resulted in a contradictory and contingent relationship between welfare, and the nature and scope of everyday publics. For men, idleness was an opportunity to participate in political and public discussion. Unemployment and insecurity also become the subject of public concern, attributed to disadvantage in systems of political patronage. Equally, individuals would easily turn away from public discussion when money was at stake.
Humans may live in the Anthropocene, but this does not affect all in the same way. How would the Anthropocene look if, instead of searching its traces in the geosphere, researchers would look for them in the organosphere, in the ecologies of humans in their entanglements with the environment? Looking at this embodied stratigraphy of power and toxicity, more than the Anthropocene, we will discover the Wasteocene. The imposition of wasting relationships on subaltern human and more-than-human communities implies the construction of toxic ecologies made of contaminating substances and narratives. While official accounts have systematically erased any trace of those wasting relationships, another kind of narrative has been written in flesh, blood, and cells. Traveling between Naples (Italy) and Agbogbloshie (Ghana), science fiction and epidemic outbreaks, this Element will take the readers into the bowels of the Wasteocene, but it will also indicate the commoning practices which are dismantling it.
This chapter traces how the material conditions and themes of Ibsen’s oeuvre reveal his interest in the culture of capitalism. The transformation of literary markets, the spread of economic ideas, and Ibsen’s financial struggles early in his career influenced both the content and form of his drama, which pays close attention to such prevalent features of nineteenth-century economic life as debt, credit, financialization and the invisible hand of the market. Although Ibsen never studied economics in depth, his own investment activities, coupled with his talent for observation, allowed him to capture European modernity in its transition from Christian ethos to the secular values of capitalism.
Discourse on food ethics often advocates the anti-capitalist idea that we need less capitalism, less growth, and less globalization if we want to make the world a better and more equitable place. This idea is also familiar from much discourse in global ethics, environment, and political theory, more generally. However, many experts argue that this anti-capitalist idea is not supported by reason and argument, and is actually wrong. As part of the roundtable, “Ethics and the Future of the Global Food System,” the main contribution of this essay is to explain the structure of the leading arguments against this anti-capitalist idea, and in favor of well-regulated capitalism. I initially focus on general arguments for and against globalized capitalism. I then turn to implications for the food, environment, climate change, and beyond. Finally, I clarify the important kernel of truth in the critique of neoliberalism familiar from food ethics, political theory, and beyond—as well as the limitations of that critique.
Starting with India’s role c.1750 as the ‘workshop of the world’ because of its dominance over global textile production, I chart India’s subsequent transformation into a raw materials producer for Britain and other industrial countries. I take a critical view of the standard Indian nationalist narrative of decline, emphasising the complexity of the process, particularly how important India’s indirect contribution was to the industrial revolution in Britain. I then look at the ‘imperial globalisation’ of the High Imperial Era when India contributed decisively to Britain’s global balance of payments, under the ‘gold standard’. The ‘deglobalisation’ that occurred during the inter-war period opened the way to the post-independence attempt at building a ‘national economy’, which benefited for a while from the Cold War helping to attract investment from East and West to finance costly infrastructures but faced a crisis that led from 1991 to an opening of the economy in the new context of the post-Cold War world. I look at India’s environmental history, too, emphasising its recent entry into the anthropocene era through growing fossil fuel use, and the nature of Indian capitalism.
This chapter examines the emergence of an emphatically anti-capitalist poetry in the decade since the global financial crash of 2008. There is a turn away from private, meditative poetry to a lyric speech that is public and willing to tackle rifts in the social body. It explores links among kinds of violence (racial, sexual, economic) and depredation (colonial, environmental) that liberal political language has tended to grasp in parallel rather than as part of a totality. Jasmine Gibson’s “Black Mass” coordinates the anguish of racial violence with on-the-ground relations between bosses and workers, sexuality, and geopolitics. Daniel Borzutzky’s The Performance of Becoming Human parallels contemporary police violence against black people with torture under Pinochet in Chile, making clear that the basis for the parallel is the global reach of capitalist accumulation. Allison Cobb’s After We All Died shows a willingness to let go of matter itself, in order to see how it de- and re-composes under conditions of capitalist crisis. Wendy Trevino’s Cruel Fiction depicts the loss of the “fictions,” including beloved ones, through which we live under capitalism.