Nelson Lichtenstein: Historian’s New Book Takes hard Look at Wal-Mart





Wal-Mart Faces Its Day of Reckoning. Wal-Mart’s relentless growth and Darwinian competitiveness have created a world that is increasingly inhospitable to its own success.

Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein has been following Wal-Mart for half a decade now, and he believes changes in China, and not in the domestic landscape, may force its day of reckoning.

Since Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in Rogers, Ark., in 1962, the company has grown into a global retailing colossus employing more than 2 million people in almost 8,000 stores worldwide and ringing up annual sales topping $400 billion.

The sheer size and scale of the empire is such that when someone holds up a mirror to Wal-Mart, what we see reflected back are many of today’s most potent social, political, economic and cultural issues.

Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, provides such a mirror in his latest book, The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.

He previously edited a collection of essays on Wal-Mart published in 2006 that defined the chain as “the face of 21st century capitalism.” He began to focus on the company during the long-running 2003-2004 grocery store strike in Southern California, when three major grocery chains cited fear of Wal-Mart selling groceries for their hard-line stance in negotiations.


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