Synopses & Reviews
An irreverent, hard-hitting examination of the world's largest-and most reviled-corporation, which reveals that while Wal-Mart's dominance may be providing consumers with cheap goods and plentiful jobs, it may also be breeding a culture of discontent.
It employs one of every 115 American workers. If it were a nation-state, it would be one of the world's top twenty economies. With yearly sales of nearly $260 billion and an average way of $8 an hour, Wal-Mart represents an unprecedented-and perhaps unstoppable-force in capitalism. And there have been few corporations that have evoked the same levels of reverence and ire.
The United States of Wal-Mart is a hard-hitting examination of how Sam Walton's empire has infiltrated not just the geography of America but also its consciousness. Peeling away layers of propaganda and politics, investigative journalist John Dicker reveals an American (and, increasingly, a global) story that has no clear-cut villains or heroes-one that could be the confused, complicated story of America itself.
Pitched battles between economic progress and quality of life, between the preservation of regional identity and national homogeneity, and between low prices and the dignity of the American worker are beginning to coalesce into an all-out war to define our modern era. And, Dicker argues, Wal-Mart is winning. Revealing that the company's business practices have been shaping American culture, including the nation's social, political, and industrial policy, The United States of Wal-Mart provides fresh insight into a controversy that isn't going away.
"Although it's getting too big to be a microcosm, Wal-Mart is a fair representation of many of the most troubling aspects of the American economy, according to this lively and insightful profile of the big-box retail leviathan. Former Colorado Springs Independent staff writer Dicker admirably sums up the conventional complaints against Wal-Mart, detailing poverty-level wages, skimpy benefits, scorched-earth antiunion policies, shuttered smalltown Main Streets, suburban sprawl abetment and rampant outsourcing. Behind the facade of 'corn-pone populism' fostered by folksy but steely founder Sam Walton, Dicker asserts, Wal-Mart has become a 'global despot.' Dicker's analysis is unsparing but balanced. He sympathizes (and sometimes strategizes) with Wal-Mart opponents, but also chides them for ignoring the appeal of the company's cheap, convenient offerings to cash-strapped customers and underserved communities. And Wal-Mart's sins, he argues, are America's; the company merely caters to the national religion of consumer entitlement that assumes shoppers have no interests in common with workers and puts low prices ahead of any social consequences. Aside from some pointless and tiresome lapses into prison-chic posturing ('[w]e're all Wal-Mart's bitches'), Dicker conveys a wealth of information in a lucid and light-handed style. (June) FYI: For the company line, check out this month's The Wal-Mart Way: The Inside Story of the World's Largest Company by Don Soderquist, who was vice chair and COO from 1988 to 1999 (Nelson Business, $24.99 256p ISBN 0-7852-6119-2)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An irreverent, hard-hitting examination of the world's largest, and most reviled, corporation reveals how the company's business practices have shaped American culture, including the nation's social, political, and industrial policy.
About the Author
John Dicker is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, Salon, and the Colorado Springs Independent, among other publications.