Saturday, April 17, 2004

Wal-Mart Nation

A little academic research on Wal-Mart -- its cash flow, its labor pratices, its attempts to take over whole cities -- was on view at an academic conference in Santa Barbara this past week. Not that academics can invariably find their own asses with both hands and a head start, but they do sort out information.

"The company's pay scale and hard-nosed labor practices, said Simon Head, a fellow at the Century Foundation and author of 'The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age' (Oxford University Press, 2003) mean that 'Wal-Mart is certainly a template of 21st-century capitalism, but a capitalism that increasingly resembles a capitalism of 100 years ago.' He added, 'It combines the extremely dynamic use of technology with a very authoritarian and ruthless managerial culture.' "

"What do low-cost goods mean in light of the pressing issues of the global environment, global human rights and the global labor force?" asked Susan Strasser, a history professor at the University of Delaware. "And how do we move beyond the single-minded self-interest of price?"

"The single-minded self-interest of price" ... it's the same human impulse that says not in my backyard but in that guy's backyard is just find & dandy. As long as I get my cheap dog food, what'da I care about who's getting ripped off? Don't care about the environment, "global human rights," or working people? Then, congratulations! You're a George Bush American! And a Wal-Mart shopper!

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