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Jane Collins

This article explores dominant ideological framings of the economic crisis that began in 2008, by examining shifting meanings of consumer citizenship in the US. The consumer citizen was a central figure in Keynesian ideology—one that encapsulated important assumptions about the proper relationship between production and consumption and the appropriate arenas for citizen engagement with the economy. Taking Wal-Mart as a case-study example, the article analyzes the way that corporate actors have flattened and reconfigured the concept of consumer citizenship in the US—promoting the “consumer” over the “citizen” and the “worker,” which had previously been important aspects of the concept—and have replaced Keynesian-era conversations about the proper balance between production and consumption with a rhetoric of choice between low prices and high wages.

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Matthias Kaelberer

Wal-Mart’s failed entry into the German retail market represents a puzzle for theories of globalization, which assert that more efficient producers will drive out poorly performing competitors, producing profits for themselves and gains for consumers. Wal-Mart’s ability to dominate its input network and to provide low-cost leadership through lean production has often been seen as the global example of creating efficiencies in the retail sector. In 2006, however Wal-Mart abandoned an eight-year effort to become a dominant player in Germany’s retail market. I argue that efficiency is not absolute, but rather context-specific and socially constructed. Domestic culture and institutions interact to constrain convergence towards a single business model in the retail sector. In the end, it was not the rigidity of German market conditions—such as high labor costs or union power—that led to failure, but rather the inflexibility of Wal-Mart’s strategy in coping with complex local conditions.

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Susan Parman

Travel as a Western cultural practice is nowhere more clearly revealed than in the titles of travel books. Promising both danger and safety (the reader sets off into the unknown accompanied by a knowledgeable authority), travel book titles walk a delicate line between authenticity and caricature. How far away must we go to have crossed into the danger zone? (What exactly does it mean to say that we are going ‘nowhere’, as in Greater Nowheres, Miles from Nowhere, Forty Miles from Nowhere, and A Thousand Miles from Nowhere? If we go nowhere, doesn’t this mean that we’ve stayed home, as in ‘Where did you go?’/’Nowhere’, meaning ‘To the fridge, the bathroom, and Wal Mart’)? How do we get there? (What is the most authentic method of travelling to Nowhere – by camel, truck, motorcycle, ultralight, horse, yak, on foot?)