How Market Economy Did Away with Violence: A Liberal Story and the Ugly Truth of Contemporary Slavery

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 68
Oral Presentation
David STRECKER , University of Jena, Germany
The history of power and violence in modernity has traditionally been conceptualized within a nation state-framework and along notions of centralization: While socially dispersed in pre-modern times, power and violence had later become increasingly concentrated in the political realm. In the course of functional differentiation, the core feature of modern societies, a state apparatus developed which organized positions of power and ultimately monopolized the legitimate use of violence. Violence, thereby, more or less disappeared from all other social spheres which turned into arenas of predominantly peaceful cooperation. With regard to labour relations, this process was facilitated by the alleged irenic functions of market transactions: Contractual relations and trade are premised on trust and, thus, do not allow for manifest violence in the economic realm. Accordingly, it has been claimed that capitalism was the driving force behind the abolition of slavery. However, violent labour relations have not ceded to exist. In fact, contemporary slavery is a pervasive phenomenon subjecting millions of people to privatized violence. This papers aims at making sense of this situation by discussing the relative merits of the claim about capitalism’s civilizing effects on labour and relating it to contemporary slavery from the perspective of a world society shaped by economic globalization and the transformation of state authority.