Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Of all people, a retail consultant discerns precisely the structural significance of Wal-Mart to the class struggle in the United States.
"I fundamentally believe that Wal-Mart has made a middle-class lifestyle possible for at least one, if not two, generations of Americans who, unlike their parents, are having to spend huge sums of money on medical insurance and the cost of housing," said Paco Underhill, president of retail consulting firm Envirosell and the author of several books on why and where people shop. "That money has had to come out of something, and Wal-Mart has helped American families not be downwardly mobile."

The US working class is getting anything at all out of neoliberalism because of the "low low prices" generated by the global dispersion of industrial production, unequal exchange between North and South, and the big-box retailer who presses suppliers to the wall. With stagnant real wages, a prostrate union movement, global capital mobility, and X, Wal-Mart is the only thing keeping much of the working class above water and within reach of a "middle class" consumerist lifestyle. Eliminate Wal-Mart and the entire 'lowest common denominator' strategy of global neoliberalism runs smack into the wall of its political contradictions. Then there really will be nothing left to lose but your chains -- provided for $1.89/ft. at Target, no doubt.


At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful to see you back, General! I don't think the prescient James O'Connor had a Walmart in mind when he was discussing political contradictions and legitimization-by-way-of-class-compromise. Anyway, you strike me as the sort of chap who'd've read 'Fiscal Crisis of the State' at some stage. Any comments on the relevance of this 31-year-old book for the globalised proles of today?

Rob Schaap


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