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Chapter One - Routledge

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Chapter One
Wal-Mart’sCultural Politics
© Routledge 2013
Making Wal-Mart strange
The anthropological technique ofdefamiliarizationhelps us to view Wal-Mart as asocialconstructionWal-Mart feels like a “natural” part of the American landscape because it works hard to to seem “normal”Wal-Mart capitalizes on the failure of contemporary society to make the American Dream available toall
© Routledge 2013
Wal-Mart’s normalization strategy
Linking shareholder value to “Everyday Low Prices” (EDLP): consumers benefit directly from Wal-Mart’s low wages andoutsourcing.Promotingaffective inclusionamong employees and customers: realsatisfaction.Promoting a conflict-free society where aggressive capitalism can co-exist with contented workers andcustomers.Claiming to be a free-market solution to large-scale and structural social problems, such as poverty and environmentaldamage.
© Routledge 2013
The American Dream
Twin – and conflicting – focuses:Celebrationof individual effort and promotion of individual freedomAsense of collective responsibility for one another: “my brother’s keeper”
© Routledge 2013
Deregulation of industries, such asmanufacturingFocus on the freemarketPrivatization of previously public services, such as health care andeducationPrioritize shareholder returns over the well-being of workers and thecommunity
© Routledge 2013
Wal-Mart and the American Dream
Wal-Mart isengaged ina reconfiguration of the material, conceptual, and affective production ofthe AmericanDream(AD)Wal-Mart’sEveryday Low Prices (EDLP) makes the shrinking of the AD lessvisible and moretolerable to manyAmericansWal-Mart smoothesout the rough edges oflife, distractsus fromthe contradictions of the AD, and eases our economicsufferingWHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY reinforcingthe conditions under which we aresubjecttoharm (“cruel optimism”)
© Routledge 2013
Wal-Mart’s critics
Three groups:“Elitists” who see Wal-Mart as a cheapened form of American retail and a blighttothe landscapeThosewho do not distinguish Wal-Mart from other multinational corporations with similar business practices and effectsThosewho propose alternative versions of “living better” and who criticizethesystem that allows Wal-Mart to flourish
© Routledge 2013





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Chapter One - Routledge