Most Americans probably assume that slavery ended in 1865. Unfortunately, they are wrong. Potentially millions of people around the world still live and toil in involuntary servitude: Slavic women in European brothels, bonded laborers in South Asia, cocoa plantation workers in West Africa. Their plight has drawn occasional attention from newspapers and magazines. But does discussion of it belong in a science magazine? The editors have been debating this question since we began to consider an article on the topic a year and a half ago. Ultimately we decided that the answer is yes [see "The Social Psychology of Modern Slavery"].
Whenever we run articles on social topics, some readers protest that we should stick to "real" science. A number also claim that the magazine has become "more politicized" in recent years. We understand: the social sciences lack the precision of the physical or biological sciences, and they are more likely to have political implications.
This article was originally published with the title The Peculiar Institution.