Thursday, December 15

Attracting the world's wrath

The anti-Wal-Mart movement is, in the end, both more and less than the sum of its parts. It is less, in that it seems likely that most critics of the company are—at least initially—motivated not by the full bill of indictment, but by one or two pet issues: An affection for small shops, or a distaste for outsourcing. It is more, in that Wal-Mart has by now, perhaps as a function of its sheer size, taken on a symbolic role as an emblem of necrotizing corporate power that is, in the end, unmoored from the particulars of the charges against it. The same people who complain bitterly about the legal fiction that a corporation is a person have succeeded in thoroughly anthropomorphizing Wal-Mart, until it is no longer a collection of persons and policies, but a kind of malevolent intelligent force—perhaps with its own twisted corporate soul.

Wal-Mart has become, to put it less poetically, a Schelling point. It attracts the wrath of so many environmentalists, living wage advocates, and sprawl opponents not because it is necessarily the most egregious offender against any of their ideals but because its size and visibility provide them all a common banner under which to rally.
Just like the hated United States

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