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The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business
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Format: Hardcover, 320pp.
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Pub. Date: July 21, 2009
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Item No: 9780805079661
Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:
The definitive account of how a small Ozarks company upended the world of business and what that change means
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest company, roared out of the rural South to change the way business is done. Deploying computer-age technology, Reagan-era politics, and Protestant evangelism, Sam Walton’s firm became a byword for cheap goods and low-paid workers, famed for the ruthless efficiency of its global network of stores and factories. But the revolution has gone further: Sam’s protégés have created a new economic order which puts thousands of manufacturers, indeed whole regions, in thrall to a retail royalty. Like the Pennsylvania Railroad and General Motors in their heyday, Wal-Mart sets the commercial model for a huge swath of the global economy.
In this lively, probing investigation, historian Nelson Lichtenstein deepens and expands our knowledge of the merchandising giant. He shows that Wal-Mart’s rise was closely linked to the cultural and religious values of Bible Belt America as well as to the imperial politics, deregulatory economics, and laissez-faire globalization of Ronald Reagan and his heirs. He explains how the company’s success has transformed American politics, and he anticipates a day of reckoning, when challenges to the Wal-Mart way, at home and abroad, are likely to change the far-flung empire.
Insightful, original, and steeped in the culture of retail life, The Retail Revolution draws on first hand reporting from coastal China to rural Arkansas to give a fresh and necessary understanding of the phenomenon that has transformed international commerce.
“Nelson Lichtenstein has written the book on Wal-Mart. You can read it as a sober indictment of the rogue company that happens also to be the world’s largest corporation. Or you can read it as a brilliantly reported case study in what’s gone wrong with the American—and the global—economy. Either way, you will read it, as I did, with complete fascination.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
“America’s wisest historian of business and labor has produced a masterpiece of reportage and analysis about the self-service country store that grew into the biggest merchandiser in the world. The Retail Revolution is far more than the best book ever written about Wal-Mart. It is a landmark work about the history of our time.”
—Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan
“This lively yet incisive account of Wal-Mart, one of our era’s most important economic institutions, challenges the claim that the company has been a boon to the U.S. economy, providing a thoughtful and much-needed perspective on inequality and insecurity in modern America.”
—Sanford M. Jacoby, author of The Embedded Corporation
“Lichtenstein’s calmly critical book sets the rise of Wal-Mart within its broader historical and cultural context, adding a valuable new perspective to the often fraught debate over the role of the world’s largest retailer.”
—Jonathan Birchall, U.S. consumer correspondent, The Financial Times
“Nelson Lichtenstein is the paramount authority on the world’s largest and most influential company, one that affects the lives of nearly all Americans and has transformed traditional business. In The Retail Revolution, original research and a profound understanding of American capitalism combine to produce a vivid account not only of how Wal-Mart has changed society, but how society in turn is now changing Wal-Mart.”
—Ron Galloway, director of Why Wal-Mart Works
“Readers wishing to grasp the brave new world of Wal-Mart in all its dimensions can’t do better than Nelson Lichtenstein’s engrossing and chilling account.”
—Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect
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About the Author
Nelson Lichtenstein is the country’s leading expert on Wal-Mart and the editor of a much-cited collection of essays on the company. A professor of history at the University of California in Santa Barbara, he is also the author of several highly regarded books on American history, including the award-winning The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit.
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