Back to the Future? Slavery, Refeudalization and the Issue of Conceptual Clarification

Monday, 11 July 2016: 18:00
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
David STRECKER, University of Jena, Germany
Are we currently experiencing a process of refeudalization? This concept has recently been revived to conceptualize the transformation social order has been undergoing as a result of neoliberal reforms. The focus has been on the emergence of a transnational capitalist class. What if we invert the perspective? Can we also describe the processes of rising inequality as refeudalization from below? One issue to investigate in this regard is the increasing trend towards precarization. What this paper focuses on, however, is the a second issue, the so-called ‘return of slavery’. Slavery was long held to be an institution that has been overcome. But since the 1990s this assessment has changed. According to the human rights NGO Anti-Slavery International there are actually more slaves today than at any other time in history. Without receiving much attention in academic mainstream, contemporary forms of slavery have already been discussed under the rubric of (semi-)feudalism in the 1970s (in what is called the global South nowadays). This paper investigates in how far these debates can help understand the current transformation of the social stratification and highlights how inequalities have risen underneath the threshold of general attention, inequalities which are not adequately grasped in historical terms of feudalism, however. Along these lines, the papers simultaneously demonstrates the value of conceptual clarification which is what ISA RC35, the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis is devoted to.