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The Business of Abolition: Marketizing ‘Anti‐slavery’

McGrath, Siobhan and Mieres, Fabiola (2022) 'The Business of Abolition: Marketizing ‘Anti‐slavery’.', Development and Change, 53 (1). pp. 3-30.


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.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 06 December 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
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Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: McGrath, Siobhan & Mieres, Fabiola (2022). The Business of Abolition: Marketizing ‘Anti‐slavery’. Development and Change 53(1): 3-30, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:03 February 2022
Date of first online publication:06 December 2021
Date first made open access:06 December 2023

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