A refreshing take on Wal-Mart vs. The World

  "Unless you’ve been residing in a national wildlife refuge, you probably hear a lot about Wal-Mart," begins The United States of Wal-Mart, by Denver writer John Dicker. Being anti-Wal-Mart is so popular these days, it can be hard to separate the good criticism from the bad. But Dicker’s book clearly qualifies as good. It is a viciously funny, irreverent and well-researched look at the discount giant and the country it increasingly feeds, clothes and employs.

Making it clear that there is more to Wal-Mart’s ascendancy than the decision "to Wal-Mart or not to Wal-Mart," Dicker finds a culprit in the "cult of the low price." This allows Wal-Mart to survive in a love-hate relationship with its customers, many of whom object to its negative impact on their communities, yet can’t get past the fact that shopping there saves them money.

But Dicker does more than harp on Wal-Mart’s destruction of Mom-and-Pop stores and prosperous small towns. The chain, he points out, which still has its base in rural America, is now set on penetrating the urban frontier. This puts the urban poor in a unique situation. When Wal-Mart sets up shop in areas where employment and affordable food and clothing are both in short supply, it may serve as an actual beacon of hope in a bleak economic situation — not simply the change for the worse that middle-class activists decry.

Dicker also has an original suggestion for local activists determined to fight the discounter. By putting politics aside, he says, and focusing on more mundane concerns — such as a proposed store’s effect on traffic — they might be able to counter the corporation more effectively than they can with impassioned pleas for social justice.

The book stands out among the emerging anti-Wal-Mart literature because it refuses to be a liberal rant against globalization or a nostalgic memoir of a small-town, pre-Wal-Mart America. Rather, it presents a more nuanced understanding that better reflects the complex world Wal-Mart hopes to dominate.

The United States of Wal-Mart
John Dicker
245 pages, softcover $12.95: Penguin/Tarcher, 2005

High Country News Classifieds
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, ARIZONA CHAPTER
    What We Can Achieve Together: Arizona's Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure...
  • CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Capacity Building Program Manager works directly with the business unit's Arizona Healthy Cities Program Director to advance the Healthy...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE MANAGER - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Friends of the Inyo - Donor database management & reporting, IT/HR, and office administrative support. PT or FT. Partly remote OK but some in-office time...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    New Mexico Land Conservancy is seeking a qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating,...
  • GRAPHIC AND DIGITAL DESIGNER
    Application deadline: December 17, 2022 Expected start date: January 16, 2023 Location: Amazon Watch headquarters in Oakland, CA Amazon Watch is a dynamic nonprofit organization...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Southern Nevada Conservancy Board of Directors announces an outstanding opportunity for a creative leader to continue building this organization. SNC proudly supports Nevada's public...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.