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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 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.  


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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 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.  

30 review for The United States of Wal-Mart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This book might seem like the soap-box rant of your standard lefty-liberal-behemoth-corporation-hater. And maybe it is. But The United States of WAL-MART knows that arguments such as “save the mom and pops!” and “but big-box stores are an aesthetic abomination!” will only go so far. Sure, they appeal to the soy-latte drinking, hybrid-driving urbanite that shops at Whole-Foods, but will they resonate with “Red-State” America? The author examines just how Wal-Mart’s “always low prices” get so low. This book might seem like the soap-box rant of your standard lefty-liberal-behemoth-corporation-hater. And maybe it is. But The United States of WAL-MART knows that arguments such as “save the mom and pops!” and “but big-box stores are an aesthetic abomination!” will only go so far. Sure, they appeal to the soy-latte drinking, hybrid-driving urbanite that shops at Whole-Foods, but will they resonate with “Red-State” America? The author examines just how Wal-Mart’s “always low prices” get so low. Very, very interesting stuff – you soon find the costs don’t vanish – they’re just cut elsewhere, chiefly in the wages and benefits of Wal-Mart employees and the entire line of distributors/farmers/suppliers who are tied to the company. The flight of American jobs overseas and the erosion of wages and benefits (that in turn lead to a surge in the need for public assistance) are just some of the factors that are covered. The author’s final point is this -- do we as a nation value little more than a bargain, regardless of the social, economic and environmental costs? Or are we willing to pay a premium for social responsibility?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Natalie y

    I have always been against Wal-Mart, but never really knew why. Though one-sided, this book, while entertaining, provides numerous statistics, history briefs, and takes a more satirical approach to the "Wal-Martization" in the global arena. Quick and entertaining read for the summer!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I think this is one case where you can judge a book by its cover. I wanted to read the book, but was skeptical given the horrendous cover art. As it turns out, the cover is a good reflection of what's inside--mainly inflammatory and tacky rhetoric about how awful Walmart is (the author states on page 28, for example, "But while it seems Walmart has become a public subsidy crack whore, have Americans become crack whores for Walmart?"). I think most readers who pick up this book already have an in I think this is one case where you can judge a book by its cover. I wanted to read the book, but was skeptical given the horrendous cover art. As it turns out, the cover is a good reflection of what's inside--mainly inflammatory and tacky rhetoric about how awful Walmart is (the author states on page 28, for example, "But while it seems Walmart has become a public subsidy crack whore, have Americans become crack whores for Walmart?"). I think most readers who pick up this book already have an inkling that Walmart is an evil entity; I'd rather the author just give me the facts and let me form my own opinions. As an aside, this book is now twelve years old, making it a bit dated.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vince Darcangelo

    http://archive.boulderweekly.com/0623... This review originally appeared in the BOULDER WEEKLY The United States of Wal-Mart by Vince Darcangelo The United States of Wal-Mart John Dicker Tarcher/Penguin It seems every few years the topic of Wal-Mart comes up in the People's Republic, most recently in relation to the giant dirt bike track where the Crossroads Mall once stood. Thankfully when that land is developed we won't have one of those insipid yellow smiley faces ugly-ing up the 28th Street cor http://archive.boulderweekly.com/0623... This review originally appeared in the BOULDER WEEKLY The United States of Wal-Mart by Vince Darcangelo The United States of Wal-Mart John Dicker Tarcher/Penguin It seems every few years the topic of Wal-Mart comes up in the People's Republic, most recently in relation to the giant dirt bike track where the Crossroads Mall once stood. Thankfully when that land is developed we won't have one of those insipid yellow smiley faces ugly-ing up the 28th Street corridor. But despite victories in the People's Republic and the nearby towns of Thornton and Monument, Colo., we can't escape the Wal-Martization of America, a 40-plus-year invasion that has made Wal-Mart corporate enemy number one. But how did we get here? Denver-based writer John Dicker tackles this question in his new book, The United States of Wal-Mart, an irreverent and insightful look at how the big-box giant became an American institution. Dicker, who has written for The Nation and Salon, as well as the Colorado Springs Independent and the B-dub, offers a sociological examination of big business and consumer culture untainted by partisan grandstanding. As a result, The United States of Wal-Mart is a refreshing take on the contentious struggle between Wal-Mart and the populace that hates them—but can't resist those low, low prices, proving Dicker's claim that, "We're all Wal-Mart's bitches." Dicker is currently on a book tour, which will bring him to the Boulder Book Store on Thursday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m. He will also appear at the Tattered Cover in Denver on Tuesday, June 28, which will be covered by Book TV. The B-dub caught up with Dicker in Los Angeles during the West Coast leg of his tour. He discussed the book and also addressed rumors linking him to syndicated Consumer Correspondent Kenneth Cleaver. Appropriate for a man who's just released a critically acclaimed book about retail merchandising, he was shopping. Vince Darcangelo: Does this book have an agenda? John Dicker: The agenda is to reach readers who otherwise wouldn't pick up a book about a retail store. And it's also to help, hopefully, without sounding too lofty, create a smarter dialogue about Wal-Mart and the politics around it. VD: In the book, you lay out the blueprint for defeating Wal-Mart, that is don't make it about labor issues, make it about land-use issues. JD: On one level, it feels really good to stick it to the Man and carry a sign and say that Wal-Mart is destroying America. That might feel good emotionally, but a lot of times it's just so irrelevant in a site fight. Your city councilmen and councilwomen, even if they're really left wing or progressive, they can't vote on that. If you're on the zoning board, you can't approve or reject based on a gender-discrimination lawsuit or the trade deficit with China. It's relevant to the larger socio-political discussion, but it's not relevant in local politics. That's where I use the example of Monument [Colo.]. I talked to people who said, 'I'm a card-carrying member of Sam's Club, but I'm against this Wal-Mart proposal because it's just going to screw the traffic. That I-25 exit can't handle it.' And that's way more relevant than talking about any of the more predictable Wal-Mart issues. VD: In the book you also discuss social responsibility. How culpable is Wal-Mart? And how much to blame are shoppers for not assuming social responsibility? JD: It's a very complicated debate. Wal-Mart executives are right when they say that no one forces us to shop at Wal-Mart. But in certain communities it's your only option. And for some people, because of their income, they can't afford to shop elsewhere. Also, there's nothing about the culture of consumerism, or the way shopping's regulated, that makes you have a Surgeon General's warning on your shelf saying, 'Proceeds of the sale of this clock radio help enrich one of the world's wealthiest families and furthers the plutocratization of this country.' A lot of the free market cheerleaders like to say that consumers vote every day with their dollar bills, thereby endorsing Wal-Mart. I think that's preposterous. There's no blue book that comes out for every store showing the pros and cons of their business formula and their labor practices, so I think that's a really flawed analogy. VD: How is Consumer Correspondent Kenneth Cleaver [whose correspondence with Wal-Mart appears in the book on pages 127-129] related to you? JD: I am vaguely associated with Kenneth Cleaver, but I can neither confirm nor deny that I am that person. He did contribute a letter to this book that's in the middle as kind of an art object.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Dicker argues that Wal-Mart’s retail domination is something less than a good thing. The slight net job growth Wal-Mart provides local economies is offset by the fact that those new jobs probably don’t provide a living wage; those low wages, in turn, drain local economies as government subsidies are used to support the families of Wal-Mart’s workers. Wal-Mart’s never-ending drive for lower prices for suppliers has only sped up the decline in the domestic manufacturing sector. The retailer has be Dicker argues that Wal-Mart’s retail domination is something less than a good thing. The slight net job growth Wal-Mart provides local economies is offset by the fact that those new jobs probably don’t provide a living wage; those low wages, in turn, drain local economies as government subsidies are used to support the families of Wal-Mart’s workers. Wal-Mart’s never-ending drive for lower prices for suppliers has only sped up the decline in the domestic manufacturing sector. The retailer has been cavalier with local communities in which it wants to build, often steamrolling over local objections to proposed stores. Finally, the magnitude of Wal-Mart’s market share in “cultural produce” (books, music, movies, and magazines) means that the company’s political leanings have a strong impact on what does and doesn’t reach the American mass market. Dicker seems somewhat unsure how to present his argument. Is it a critique of Wal-Mart’s place in the economy and society? Is it an investigation into Wal-Mart’s business and labor practices? Is it an indictment of the consumerism that drives us to shop at Wal-Mart despite its shortcomings? Is it a handbook for Wal-Mart’s opponents? All these threads are present, but Dicker never weaves them together consistently. His argument is often undermined because he relies so heavily on anecdotes. On several occasions, for example, he mentions people and groups that have fought against a proposed Wal-Mart in their communities. There are various fears behind local opposition: greatly increased traffic, economic impact on existing local businesses, anti big-box aesthetics, etc. Never does Dicker compare Wal-Mart in this regard to other retailers like Costco or Target. If there’s a difference in corporate approaches or community responses, what are they and why do they exist? Equally maddening is that he’ll introduce one of these anecdotes and then, if he provides a conclusion to the account at all, it will occur much later in the book. Sometimes, he ignores his best evidence. Studies by Kenneth Stone and others strongly suggest the Wal-Mart is part of a zero-sum game: for every job created or good sold in a new Wal-Mart, there is a corresponding job or market-share loss in an existing business. Dicker mentions Stone’s work only in passing, though his studies strongly undermine Wal-Mart’s promotion of itself as an engine of job growth. Then there’s the issue of language. The jacket blurb praises this book as an “irreverent” examination of Wal-Mart. The author and his editors apparently think that a liberal dose of vulgar language passes for irreverence these days. Dicker has a serious subject, and vulgarities do not strengthen his argument. They will win no one over to his side and will likely anger some folks who might otherwise be sympathetic to his cause. On the other hand, there is much to like about Dicker’s work. In his concluding chapter, he lays out with stunning effect the results of a Democratic congressional study showing that subsidizing Wal-Mart’s low wages has a huge public cost: free and reduced lunches for children of employees, housing assistance, low-income tax credits, Title I education funding, health-care subsidies, and energy assistance. Dicker’s analysis of Wal-Mart’s antagonists can be interestingly subtle. His sympathy for labor organizers, for example, is tempered by union bungling and malfeasance. He acknowledges that Main Street mom-and-pop shops were in decline long before Wal-Mart and questions those who make old-time retail the battle line in the war against big-box shopping. When Dicker puts his mind to it, his analysis can be clear and effective. All too often, however, he lets his anecdotal story telling and “irreverent” rhetoric lead his argument astray. What’s horribly sad is that there seems to be more than enough data to warrant a book-length critical examination of Wal-Mart. The retail giant’s history, labor practices, and local and global commercial impact are all worth a closer look than the Wal-Mart’s public relations staff would have us believe.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michelle H

    The author discussed how Sam Walton started the business and the strategies he implimented to make it a giant success. I was impressed at a lot of the technology and stratgies that Wal Mart used to grow the business. On the flip side, the book also discusses the pitfalls of the company and how they treat their employees. There was not a lot of Wal Mart "bashing" in the book, but the pros and cons of each side. Where do you sit when it comes to economic progress vs. quality of life, and how much The author discussed how Sam Walton started the business and the strategies he implimented to make it a giant success. I was impressed at a lot of the technology and stratgies that Wal Mart used to grow the business. On the flip side, the book also discusses the pitfalls of the company and how they treat their employees. There was not a lot of Wal Mart "bashing" in the book, but the pros and cons of each side. Where do you sit when it comes to economic progress vs. quality of life, and how much are you going to pay for "lower prices." I liked the book and have respect for some of the processes that they implimented that are now common practice.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jane Dee

    Funny and entertaining. I learned a lot about walmart and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to learn and laugh and think about a topic all at the same time. I liked the first half of the book but the latter half was written with "big" words a lot of people wouldnt know. Not that I have anything against showing off your vocabulary but it made it sound a bit high-brow. I think a book like this should be written in a way that almost everyone could understand because you want a lot of Funny and entertaining. I learned a lot about walmart and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to learn and laugh and think about a topic all at the same time. I liked the first half of the book but the latter half was written with "big" words a lot of people wouldnt know. Not that I have anything against showing off your vocabulary but it made it sound a bit high-brow. I think a book like this should be written in a way that almost everyone could understand because you want a lot of people to read it and talk about it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chana

    In seven years I have only been to Wal-Mart once in my own area (the nearest one is about 40 minutes away), although I do go there when I travel. I know they will have whatever I need and it is comfortably anonymous and familiar (every Wal-Mart is just like another). However, some of what I read here made me very uncomfortable, to the point where I will no longer shop at Wal-Mart if possible. (I admit it, I've shopped at Wal-Mart since I wrote this)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    The author did a great job of describing the scope and influence of this company that has no soul or moral compass. The ills perpetrated by Wal-mart, both obvious and subtle, are stated clearly. Though the author doesn't let the consumer off the hook he does place the bulk of the blame on the company.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    John Dicker made points I have not thought about before. While he does not support the wal-mart philosophy of low wages and low prices, at the same time he acknowledges that bringing low cost fruits and vegetables to city neighborhoods is an excellent thing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Veleda

    And irreverent (perhaps a little overly irreverent), deeply interesting look into the inner workings of the corporate behemoth. Dicker approaches his subject with both frankness and surprising nuance.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    OK, but not really anything more than an extended Op-Ed piece. To Mr. Dicker's credit, though, he acknowledges this fact himself in the first few pages. Pretty fun reading, honestly, but you probably aren't going to learn anything about Wal-Mart you didn't already know.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    A look at the machinery behind the store that gives me a headache and that I swear I'm never going into again every time I go in. How to get super rich selling junk.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    While I am quite curious about Walmart and its takeover on America, this book moved too slowly for my tastes and I could not really get into it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    The author is kinda funny and uses a lot of interviews from employees which is nice and adds authenticity to his writing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Nothing new here content-wise, and his writing style is grating.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    This book paints the predictable but accurate portrait of the evil Bentonville-based empire. The stories about the casualties of Wal-Mart's rise to prominence are sobering...and scary.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan Scali

    Very interesting. Surprisingly balanced considering the author has written for The Nation.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Harless

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey DiNapoli

  25. 5 out of 5

    Don McNay

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert Ludlow

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robin Hemmer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jerecarenee

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