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Chapter One Wal-Mart’s Cultural Politics © Routledge 2013.

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1 Chapter One Wal-Mart’s Cultural Politics © Routledge 2013

2 Making Wal-Mart strange  The anthropological technique of defamiliarization helps us to view Wal-Mart as a social construction  Wal-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 to all © Routledge 2013

3 Wal-Mart’s normalization strategy  Linking shareholder value to “Everyday Low Prices” (EDLP): consumers benefit directly from Wal-Mart’s low wages and outsourcing.  Promoting affective inclusion among employees and customers: real satisfaction.  Promoting a conflict-free society where aggressive capitalism can co-exist with contented workers and customers.  Claiming to be a free-market solution to large-scale and structural social problems, such as poverty and environmental damage. © Routledge 2013

4 The American Dream  Twin – and conflicting – focuses: 1. Celebration of individual effort and promotion of individual freedom 2. A sense of collective responsibility for one another: “my brother’s keeper” © Routledge 2013

5 Neoliberalism  Deregulation of industries, such as manufacturing  Focus on the free market  Privatization of previously public services, such as health care and education  Prioritize shareholder returns over the well- being of workers and the community © Routledge 2013

6 Wal-Mart and the American Dream  Wal-Mart is engaged in a reconfiguration of the material, conceptual, and affective production of the American Dream (AD)  Wal-Mart’s Everyday Low Prices (EDLP) makes the shrinking of the AD less visible and more tolerable to many Americans  Wal-Mart smoothes out the rough edges of life, distracts us from the contradictions of the AD, and eases our economic suffering  WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY reinforcing the conditions under which we are subject to harm (“cruel optimism”) © Routledge 2013

7 Wal-Mart’s critics  Three groups: 1. “Elitists” who see Wal-Mart as a cheapened form of American retail and a blight to the landscape 2. Those who do not distinguish Wal-Mart from other multinational corporations with similar business practices and effects 3. Those who propose alternative versions of “living better” and who criticize the system that allows Wal-Mart to flourish © Routledge 2013

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