Book Review of Bethany Moretons To Serve God and Walmart Essay

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Bethany Moreton's "To serve God and Walmart: The making of Christian free enterprise." (Harvard University Press, 2009)

Author Bethany Moreton's work provides an insight into Walmart's corporate history and its swift climb, within 50 years, from a little discount retail chain opened up by Sam Walton to an international retailing giant. The author goes beyond readers' expectations to include Walmart Country's religious, social, and cultural history (the term 'Walmart Country' would refer to its politically charged birthplace and surroundings of East Oklahoma, north-western Arkansas, and south Missouri). It is a place where the retailer's customers, supervisors and staff collaborate with missionaries, evangelical housewives, and pastors, within a doctrine of free enterprise and community service.

Moreton has penned an in-depth and captivating analysis of the popular global retail giant, America's largest private-sector employer, and the largest global public company. Through an elaborate case study, the author has effectively assimilated its cultural history and economic assessment into the book, providing readers with a picture of the overall nation. By so doing, she has explicitly clarified the relationship between contemporary American business, governance, and religion. The book is an indepth report on free market and evangelical doctrines' mainstreaming, and will help readers comprehend how the company won America's hearts and wallets.

The Central Theme

What is the reason behind the rise of modern consumerism's leading entity in the Arkansan Ozark Mountains situated so far from America's industrial cities, financial hubs, and age-old transportation hubs? After all, prior to Walmart, this region was hardly considered to be the birthplace of a modern corporate giant. Moreton studies the advantages Walmart's rural south setting presented, for its managers to cleverly take advantage of.

This well-researched work addressing Walmart's ideological underpinnings considers the chief force to be the ageless urban-rural divide that company shareholders successfully leveraged, eventually entrenching the idea that shopping at a Walmart outlet would allow its bitter rural customers to rebuff the godless, urban secular notions and the companies and banks that, for long, domineered over rural citizens. The retailer's successful incorporation of the Southern Republican States' inhabitants provided Republican politicians a model to help improve its revanchist alliance of free marketers, Christian social right-wingers, racists, and elites.

The Subtle Influence of Christianity

According to the book's author, Walmart had to ensure rural agrarian wives would become its permanent customers; in as much, it needed to mirror its corporate structure to that of Southern states' tiny family farms, thus successfully calling to mind familial values. It wished for these homemakers to become its employees as well as clients, through modeling itself on rural family relationships. Hence, Walmart developed an echelon of submissive, altruistic females who toiled hard and served a largely male leadership from an intrinsic, almost-genetically acquired sense of personal obligation. The author concludes from a highly publicized class suit against Walmart for its lack of female managers that the company essentially established a patriarchy (with its founder Sam Walton being the angelic headman), re-presenting retailing as the proving field for conventional traditional masculinity. While orthodox Christians concentrated their efforts on reiterating that women belong at home, Walmart established itself as the effective ideological ally, side-lining females at workplaces whilst extolling their contributions to "servant leadership" (i.e., uncompensated domestic service).

The author writes that such cooperation with conservative advocates combined with, according to her detailed description, a highly publicized attempt at acquiring capital at the local level and, subsequently, an intensive attempt at supporting secondary education for local citizens aided the retailer in overcoming the remaining regional opposition to consumerism and retail chains in general. It persevered to preserve the disappearing traditional American principles of altruistic Christian domesticity. The author presents a rather compelling account, although a few idiosyncrasies do accompany it. For instance, it appears strange that Moreton calls Arkansas a "Sun Belt" area, which is a stretch, apparently endeavoring to link Walmart's growth to changes in demography, and the explosive growth in the nation's "Sand States." Throughout, the author has made use of a carefully substantiated, selective description to create a narrative; however, readers may find it suspiciously appropriate on occasion, given the many incidents, company events, and management interviews accessible to the author. It is not easy to ascertain if a few anecdotes cited in the book are predictable or personally selected. on a more general note, concentrating firmly on ideological aspects and failing to recognize the harsh numerical ofeconomies scale the retailer was able to produce against competition, provides an overall slightly-myopic image of the company's growth.

The Argument

According to New York Times Book Review's Robert Frank, economists have, for long, realized the pull of flexi-work to a few employee groups.

Stuck Writing Your "Book Review of Bethany Moretons To Serve God and Walmart" Essay?

However, To serve God and Walmart's author goes further to provide newer observations regarding Walmart's lure. For instance, she expounds that Walmart reminded the masses of fundamentalist Christian philosophies adopted by numerous members of the company's workforce for cultivating a work climate that prompted them to be content with trivial benefits and meager wages. The author asserts that Sam Walton's management team was quick to realize the economic benefits of incorporating certain aspects of Ozark fundamentalist beliefs into the company's business strategy. The book explains why staff members readily accepted the company's very Spartan compensation package.

Nevertheless, one effective aspect readers will note is the author's account of a parallel growth of contemporary Christian conservatism and Walmart. The book tracks the origins of free-enterprise movements that enabled society to liken shopping to freedom, forging the relationship that this philosophy helped the retailer expand to mammoth proportions unchecked. The book is intriguingly-timed; the author, by consistently calling big businesses "immortal super-citizens," especially emphasizes the political authority enjoyed by Walmart and other multinationals.

Moreton hypothesizes that the retailer expanded to its current position owing to its ability to ride the "conservative economic policy" wave in its expansion endeavors and employ the "Christian enterprise" concept to hire people who perceived economic service to be their calling. Of late, the company has witnessed much negative media scrutiny with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision of female workers' right to pursue a class action gender discrimination suit against the retail chain. Despite Walmart's status on the global scene, one must not forget the fact that it is essentially a product of rural Ozark. It is worth noting that the retailer is considered synonymous with Americanism's religious fundamentalist and traditionalist version, which advocates free enterprise whilst simultaneously rejecting labor laws and unions. Although the retail chain might have, arguably, been the birthplace of the concept of 'big box' retailing or, at least, may have perfected it, not much indication as to how Target and other retailers succeeded without such doctrines is presented. The book has a profound rural theme; the author could have focused more on the unique challenges urban values present. For instance, the company signed its local workers for advertising activities. A more comprehensive examination of this point, as well as of the company's utilization of client demographic profiles and product categories is required. Further, just like fast-food giant, Mcdonalds, Walmart is usually embroiled in antagonistic or spiteful zoning debates, and how can one reconcile this with Christian principles? How is one supposed to justify the quandary of the closure of innumerable Christian bookstores, partly because of their inability to keep up with competition posed by Walmart? Moreton's work will undoubtedly open up avenues for further research; for instance, it would be a great idea to make the author's work more complex and scrutinize Whole Foods and other such companies for explaining the impact of liberal doctrines on corporate models.

Use of Religion

Bethany Moreton's initial idea was not penning a religious book on how the Ozarks successfully gave birth to the world's biggest economic giant. Instead, her research directed her instantly to orthodox Christian females who form not only the mainstay of the company's workforce but also America's biggest Protestant evangelical segment. Using Weber's Protestant work code, the author demonstrates how these traditionalist Christian females' faith assisted them in molding the novel service economy, by offering the philosophy and drive that gave meaning to their work. Christian females' faith made the "Christian service" motif endure for the junior-level employees of Walmart. This strong grassroots dogma ultimately converted the prominent business power and proprietorship metaphors into a "servant leader" doctrine that effectively combined economic trends with evangelical ones.

With the family shopping task falling to rural women, consumer demand brought an ever-greater array of Christian merchandise into Walmart outlets, together with a number of extensively recounted merchandise purges which effectively spot-cleaned the abovementioned product zone for literalist Protestant Christians (Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist, and Church of Christ followers). The novel capacity of Christian buyers to perceive their purchasing behaviour as the procurement of good, healthy merchandise….....

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