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TO SERVE GOD AND WAL-MART: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

TO SERVE GOD AND WAL-MART: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

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3.84

(32)
|Views: 8,476|Likes:
"[A] probing and nuanced study of the latter-day evangelical romance with free-market capitalism...Wal-Mart's folksy illusion relied in part on making store workers feel like family; in particular, on making female workers feel valued as wives and mothers. Moreton does an excellent job of digging beneath Wal-Mart's carefully imagineered vision of the rural good life. She not only recounts labor abuses such as the company's notorious failure to promote and reward women but also stresses how the company appealed to white Americans' feelings of entitlement...Its workers and the customers they served--often "friends, neighbors, and loved ones"--were the same: white Ozarkers nostalgic for a wholesome, more homogeneous, and largely imaginary yesteryear, for a past in which the best opportunities were reserved for people like them."
--Maud Newton, Bookforum
"[A] probing and nuanced study of the latter-day evangelical romance with free-market capitalism...Wal-Mart's folksy illusion relied in part on making store workers feel like family; in particular, on making female workers feel valued as wives and mothers. Moreton does an excellent job of digging beneath Wal-Mart's carefully imagineered vision of the rural good life. She not only recounts labor abuses such as the company's notorious failure to promote and reward women but also stresses how the company appealed to white Americans' feelings of entitlement...Its workers and the customers they served--often "friends, neighbors, and loved ones"--were the same: white Ozarkers nostalgic for a wholesome, more homogeneous, and largely imaginary yesteryear, for a past in which the best opportunities were reserved for people like them."
--Maud Newton, Bookforum

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Published by: Harvard University Press on Jun 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/21/2013

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TO SERVE GOD
AND
WAL-MART
The Making of Christian Free Enterprise 
BETHANY MORETON
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England 2009
 
Copyright © 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard CollegeAll rights reservedPrinted in the United States of AmericaMany of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguishtheir products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appearin this book and Harvard University Press was aware of a trademark claim,then the designations have been printed in initial cap ital letters.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 
Moreton, Bethany.To serve God and Wal-Mart : the making of Christian free enterprise /Bethany Moreton.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-0-674-03322-1 (alk. paper)1. Wal-Mart (Firm) 2. Business—Religious aspects—Christianity. 3. Freeenterprise—Religious aspects—Christianity. 4. Discount houses (Retailtrade)—United States. I. Title.HF5429.215.U6M67 2009381
9
.1490973—dc22 2008055621

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nickelini reviewed this
Rated 2/5
My low rating for this book is perhaps unfair and possibly inaccurate, but it reflects my reading experience. Moreton goes into painful detail on the ties between the evolution of Wal-Mart and how "a Christian service ethos powered capitalism at home and abroad." Her research is exhaustive, but I quickly became exhausted. This was way, way too long and she lost me in the minutiae. There were some interesting bits, but overall I found this very dull.Part of the problem is that I expected a professor of history and women's studies to present more of a criticism of the retailer and the free enterprise system in general. Instead, at times this read like an apologia, as an earlier reviewer also noticed. Further, she completely lost me on the whole "service" slant to her argument since my admittedly limited experience with Wal-Mart evokes no memories of any service. Still, it's a professional, meticulously researched piece that might appeal to someone looking for an economic and cultural history.
swivelgal reviewed this
Rated 2/5
This book was not at all what I expected. The book addresses the Christian beliefs of Wal-Mart's founders and a select few employees. This handful of people are the audience for the book. Not the average Wal-Mart shopper that is looking for God.I wish I hadn't bought it.
mjgrogan_1 reviewed this
Rated 2/5
I suppose I’d say this book offers what the title promises. It’s a well-researched and consummately written account of how Sam’s empire emerged in concert with the transforming identities of (some) US Christian doctrine and the transformations of the service economy throughout the post-war years. This is about how the “Wal-Mart Country” of the Ozarks went from a provincial/rural rejection of the emerging chain-store epidemic to the host of the world’s greatest chain. Something like that.I suppose I’d say that this has much of interest. This probably an important book that certainly offers a unique reading of Wal-Mart’s evolution; a reading that encompasses innumerable aspects – local and global - beyond the typical issues often attributed the retailer’s “effect.” It’s also a bit dull if you’re seeking a critical account of the mega-retailer or “free enterprise” or religious universities or whatever. If Moreton offers any critical dimension, it’s definitely below the radar (or way over my head, as the case may be) and, while that’s a respectable scholarly approach, my anti-Wal-Mart leanings leave me wanting more. Perhaps I simply require spectacle or muckraking to hold my interest at this point. At the very least this lacks the snarkiness implied by the rather goof-ball, photoshopped cover image splicing aisle nine with the firmament.At the very most this comes off a bit like some kind of apologia for the massive company’s machinations. If Moreton shows any bias, it seems directed towards Wal-Mart’s good deeds: the rescue of intelligent Guatemalan teens from a life of guaranteed poverty aided by the US government; the rescuing of hapless Katrina victims from the incompetence of FEMA; the bestowal of good old consumer choice upon previously ignored Mexican nationals. Beyond mention of the “Made in the U.S.A” propaganda as more “style than substance,” she seems to gloss over anything that might be construed as negative. This may be refreshing in light of all the other anti-big box exposés, but my cynical disposition left me wondering if this book might actually represent a most sophisticated marketing ploy! Has the Home Office managed to infiltrate the scholarship of a major university (and the Harvard University Press)?!? Crazier things have happened. As I’ve witnessed years of inane TV ads, obviously conceived by an uncreative store associate, I’m not going to read that much into it. But if a typical hard-core Women’s Studies academic could muster up a Wal-Mart cheer, it might sound a lot like this.
kelmunger_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Wal-Mart as Antichrist might be believable, considering the barely-disguised worship of cheap labor sacrificed on the altar of nonstop consumption. But this book by historian Moreton says it all in the subtitle—*The Making of Christian Free Enterprise*—then proceeds to produce evidence of how this unnatural marriage of capitalism and popular Christianity has been accomplished. It’s been a puzzle to those of us who recognize that what little Jesus actually said about economics and politics leans more toward the left, but Wal-Mart is the drive-through chapel featuring an Elvis impersonator where populist Christian capitalism wed, then began to reproduce. Wal-Mart may be the biggest example, but it’s not the only one. Moreton makes her point with a combination of economic and cultural history, offering an explanation for working-class Americans’ continued embrace of beliefs that hurt them economically. Just count the “Honk if you love Jesus!” bumper stickers in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
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