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The Business of Abolition: Marketizing ‘Anti‐slavery’

McGrath, Siobhan; Mieres, Fabiola


Fabiola Mieres


This article conceptualizes contemporary abolitionism as a commodifying cause characterized by multiple processes of marketization. It demonstrates how concerns about the unethical commodification of labour form the basis of a variety of marketization projects and processes. Three processes of marketization in this arena are identified: making relations of advocacy and activism more market-like; seeking to rehabilitate and/or reform markets in the face of ‘supply chain slavery’; and pursuing abolitionism through commodification. Drawing on project data, and supplemented with empirical observations, interventions to address ‘slavery’, human trafficking and/or forced labour in supply chains are identified and analysed. Marketization is employed as a lens to understand the diverse field of contemporary abolitionism and its relationships to (ideas of) the market. The article highlights how ongoing efforts to reconcile ‘slavery’ and the market posit ethical markets as the solution to the unethical commodification of labour. These efforts are marked by tensions and contradictions, however, necessitating discursive work to position ‘slavery’ as emerging from outside the market.


McGrath, S., & Mieres, F. (2022). The Business of Abolition: Marketizing ‘Anti‐slavery’. Development and Change, 53(1), 3-30.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Dec 6, 2021
Publication Date Jan 31, 2022
Deposit Date Feb 3, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 7, 2023
Journal Development and Change
Print ISSN 0012-155X
Electronic ISSN 1467-7660
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 53
Issue 1
Pages 3-30