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By Hitting Up Those Post Holiday Sales, Are You Supporting Contemporary Slavery?

Do you support slavery? Don’t be so quick to answer no. Conservative estimates show that in a given year, 27 million people are enslaved across our global society. Yes, our current society! While you may find different forms of contemporary slavery reprehensible, our ties to the ongoing slave trade are often times closer than you think. In this post, David Mayeda questions our consumer culture and its ties to worker exploitation.



I admit, I love my iPad. I utilize it so much and so often that one of my colleagues calls it my best friend. I also own a laptop, a cell phone and a number of other gadgets that I find extremely useful in our contemporary techy society. I’ve also been tempted to hit up those post-holiday sales that emerge every December 26, but thus far I have resisted. My modicum of resistance stems from a moral consciousness. Remember, in a capitalist society, the objective is to profit. Rendering a profit means cutting costs, and this happens most effectively by cutting labour costs. Too often, labour costs are cut entirely by enslaving people.

Kevin Bales – the foremost scholar on contemporary slavery – defines slavery as the total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation. Why is it that those of us in high-income countries can go into stores and pay $5-$10 for clothing items? It is likely because the stores you’re buying those items from, purchased the items for substantially less than the relatively small amount you’re paying. Does $5 even cover the cost of the materials used to make a T-shirt?…

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Social Movements and State Violence

From the Arab Spring to the international “Occupy Movement,” we have recently witnessed how state govenments clash with disgruntled citizens who are fed up with their lack of life chances for upward social mobility. In this post, David Mayeda examines how Max Weber’s theoretical positions on authority, power, and violence apply to the recent disturbances in and around London, England, and Davis, California.

Have you ever felt unfairly treated by a parent, boss, coach, or another authority figure? After being mistreated, did you feel like that authority figure shouldn’t be granted so much power over you? No doubt this is a situation most, if not all of us, have probably experienced a number of times in our lives. We can expand this social dynamic beyond the interpersonal level to understand broader social movements.

Max Weber, a founding figure in sociology, argued that authority is the use of power that is perceived as legitimate by the rest of society. Weber said that authority could be divided into three types: traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational. Previously my colleague discussed charismatic authority, but in this post I will focus on legal-rational authority, where authority is formally institutionalized.

This may occur in workplaces (a superior has authority over a subordinate), on sports teams (a coach has authority over athletes), in state governments (a politician can vote on laws impacting citizens), and in state roles (a police officer has authority over the average citizen). Legal-rational authority is accepted by the greater society (or at least the majority of it) because it has been formally built into the society’s political system.

On Friday police on the campus of University of California Davis were video taped using pepper spray at point blank range on protestors who were sitting on the ground. (see video, below):

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The 2011 Rugby World Cup and New Zealand’s 99%

About three months ago I moved from Honolulu, Hawai’i to Auckland, New Zealand. Moving to a new country made me keenly aware of my American-centered sports interests. While in the United States gridiron football is king, across the Pacific and Australasia, the sport of choice is rugby. For the past six weeks, New Zealand has been hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC), with the home team’s “All Blacks” just defeating France 8-7 in the finals. During this time, the RWC had to share its stage with global movements for social equity.

In downtown Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city), the landscape transformed from a typical big city central business district (CBD) inundated with glitzy stores, to one that shared commercialized space with increasingly ubiquitous RWC advertising and merchandise….

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