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Chapter Eight Wal-Mart and Freedom © Routledge 2013.

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1 Chapter Eight Wal-Mart and Freedom © Routledge 2013

2 Definition of Freedom?  Free market = Freedom?  Freedom understood by many Americans to be synonymous with collective good  Freedom as the absence of coercion?  Freedoms always paired with unfreedom  Individual vs. collective tension  Individual freedom to smoke interferes with collective freedom to breathe healthy air  Individual freedom to own assault rifles interferes with collective freedom to feel safe from harm © Routledge 2013

3 Wal-Mart’s Vision of Freedom and Rights  Wal-Mart’s freedom is market-centric  Wal-Mart free to:  Maximize shareholder profits  Hire and manage employees  Ban unions  Wal-Mart focuses on the freedom of the individual consumer  Free to spend the money they save at Wal- Mart on the things that make their lives better  BUT… we are not SOLELY consumers. We are also:  Workers  Citizens  Inhabitants of the natural environment © Routledge 2013

4 Competing visions of Freedom Wal-Mart’s Freedom  Pay low wages  Outsource labor  Slow and discriminatory hiring practices  Leverage consolidation power over vendors  Pollute the environment  Ban unions  Mistreat workers Our unfreedom  Earn an adequate living  Good American jobs; locally made products  Ability to move up the ladder  Have real “choice” between products  Have a clean and safe natural world  Collectively organize  Enjoy basic human rights © Routledge 2013

5 Normalizing Wal-Mart’s Freedom  Keep “inconvenient truths” hidden  Internalized Wal-Mart’s definition:  Not an accident  Wal-Mart works to make this happen  Dissolution of class boundaries through shopping and working at Wal-Mart  Becoming “entrepreneurs of ourselves”  Ascribing this to our own free will © Routledge 2013

6 Masking contradictions  As these contradictions grew, Wal-Mart succeeded by using high efficiency logistics and exploiting a low wage workforce to manufacture a miniaturized version of the American Dream  This version empowered vulnerable individuals to navigate an increasingly unequal and hostile socioeconomic terrain and fostered real experiences of belonging, saving, and self- improvement. It also promoted a plausible and contradiction-free worldview  Wal-Mart deployed an effective anti-union strategy, and developed a sophisticated PR apparatus to deflect organized opposition or critique © Routledge 2013

7 Reimagining Freedom  A “job” or a living wage?  Fashioning truly sustainable and alternative versions of the dream  Turning one Dream into multiple dreams  Rebuild the Dream Movement  Fights for public investment in poor and minority communities  Overcome historical injustices  Freedom as collective well-being. Recognize the:  Fundamentally shared nature of our existence  Collective production of society  Interdependence of individual and collective © Routledge 2013

8 Making Other Dreams Possible  Alternative perspectives allow us to:  Imagine the possibilities of collective action through which we could wrestle control from powerful corporations and undemocratic political systems  Put other dreams of freedom into motion  Forge alliances between groups that have been separated by neoliberal economies  Organize around our various oppositions to Wal-Mart and other multinationals:  The Occupy movement  Respect DC and other Community Benefit Agreement groups © Routledge 2013

9 Making Other Dreams Possible (Cont’d)  Wal-Mart and multinational industry not inevitable  “Harm industries”  Global capital literally “banks on” the continued separation of oppressed groups  Wal-Mart’s affective inclusion partially makes up for the unmet demands of some of their critics © Routledge 2013

10 Alternative visions of freedom require reconfigured regulatory frameworks— new cultural rules by which we organize economic and political life: how we exploit the natural environment to meet human needs for survival; how we assign property rights, mobilize labor, organize exchange, and distribute surplus; and how we organize ourselves into groups and make political decisions; in short, how we best govern ourselves. The possibilities for reconfiguration are almost limitless, and anti-Wal-Mart movements provide numerous ideas of places to start. © Routledge 2013

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