Modern Slavery in Business: The Sad and Sorry State of a Non-Field

Robert Caruana, Andrew Crane, Stefan Gold, Genevieve LeBaron

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“Modern slavery,” a term used to describe severe forms of labor exploitation, is beginning to spark growing interest within business and society research. As a novel phenomenon, it offers potential for innovative theoretical and empirical pathways to a range of business and management research questions. And yet, development into what we might call a “field” of modern slavery research in business and management remains significantly, and disappointingly, underdeveloped. To explore this, we elaborate on the developments to date, the potential drawbacks, and the possible future deviations that might evolve within six subdisciplinary areas of business and management. We also examine the value that nonmanagement disciplines can bring to research on modern slavery and business, examining the connections, critiques, and catalysts evident in research from political science, law, and history. These, we suggest, offer significant potential for building toward a more substantial subfield of research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-287
Number of pages37
JournalBusiness & Society
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • modern slavery
  • forced labour
  • Business
  • Political science
  • Law
  • History
  • Sustainability


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