Abolitionist Anti-politics? Capitalism, Coercion and the Modern Anti-slavery Movement

  • Neil HowardEmail author


Although extremes of labour exploitation are part of capitalism, mainstream political discourse positions them outside the capitalist system, as ‘slavery’, ‘trafficking’ or ‘forced labour’. This discourse reinforces capitalist hegemony, since it shields capitalism from legitimate critique regarding both its moral failings and its inherent contradictions. By buying into and re-producing that discourse, the modern abolitionist movement unwittingly plays a hegemonic role in the defence of capitalist social relations. Unless modern abolitionists wish merely to serve the forces they should be opposing, they need to advocate policies with genuinely emancipatory potential, such as the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). If they do so, they have the capacity to play a radical role in the promotion of global social justice, rather than defending the status quo.


Modern abolition Anti-politics Capitalist hegemony 



Research for this essay was funded by European Union Marie Curie Actions, and by the EUI’s Migration Policy Centre. Neil is grateful for this funding, and for the generous editorial assistance provided by this volume’s editors, as well as by Asha Amirali. Portions of the essay were previously published as media articles with Al-Jazeera and openDemocracy.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BathBathUK

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