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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 7, 2009 11:00am-11:30am EDT

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really global history. this was the first book and this also won two prizes so i'm extremely proud of the wilsonian moment. >> where does the title came from >> it's what the author represented the spirit of the age. the lincoln moment is an important moment in american history but the wilsonian moment gave rise to a sense of hopefulness that there would be a new future coming out of the ashes of world war i. >> susan ferber, with oxford university press with a couple of their new titles. en ..
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she discusses her book with author and northwestern university professor nancy maclean. >> host: welcome to booktv after words, i am nancy maclean, historian of the 20 of such a dash 20th-century northwest and i am interviewing bethany moreton professors sp 13 as the town and author of a "to serve god and wal-mart: the making of christian free enterprise" which is published by harvard university press. first of all, i want to say congratulations, this is an extraordinary work of history. i have read a great deal about wal-mart's over the last decade
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or so and i have picked up your pocket transformed might understanding of this phenomenon. the story that you tell is rich and gripping and the details are sometimes amazing, there are surprises. all throughout barrett in the analysis is bold and original so i think which you have here gives us all a lot to think about and i think this is going to be a rich discussion today. this is a book ranges through southern history and the development of capitalism in the ozarks and religious revivalism and women and changes in the family economy, the expansion of free enterprise, like america and the '70s and '80s so there is some much going on here here and i hope to be able to give our listeners a sense of all of this. what i thought would be helpful is to start with the big picture of the book and when you are doing here. and then get into some of the particulars but, first of all, i think in terms of a big pitcher most readers are going to know that wal-mart is the biggest
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company on the planet now, but few of us realize just how big it is. and what a player it is economically, if you tell us in the early pages in them but that if wal-mart were an independent country it would have the 30th largest economy in the world and so is a stunning behemoths of it and economic power. so i think we should talk maybe a little about the scale but also one of the things i think is so new and provoke -- provocative about your book is that you make this argument that just as the ford motor company shape to the industrial era that brought us the great depression and everything else in the new deal and the things of that characterized so much of the 20th-century, you make an argument that wal-mart is shaping the new era of global service in changing culture and politics and everyday life. so give us a few a big picture
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of how big a wal-mart is and how it is affecting our world. >> guest: that was the analogy because i'm one of these concrete figures and to try to imagine a shift from industrial economy to a post industrial a economy and what does this mean, i needed an image of a group of characters and actors that limit that concrete and wal-mart those of us who brought in the south that used to sing and a lot earlier than its first got on to international attention so we're getting a sense of how it was ordering parts of our live early on and everything that the first half of the the 20 the century being so shaped by industrialization and by the assembly line and charlie chaplin in modern times, these kind of images, wal-mart was doing the same thing but with a completely different cast of characters. and with completely different sort of animating idea is in a
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different geography. i think there has been a lot of marvelous reporting in the business press bank guinness about how it has reshaped economic relationships about the plant, the time of a offshoring phenomenon wherein it wal-mart would be china's sixth largest trading partner if it were an independent country. those kinds of relationships have i think worked their way into public consciousness so it was an easy starting point now. i started looking at it in 2002 as a point where wal-mart for the first time became the largest company on the planet and this was a really signal moment i think that's a lot of people grasped at the time because it was the first time in as a service provider, a place where women in blue smocks asking if i can help do replaced big heavy industry distractive of oil companies, motor companies in this kind of things. and the effect of that seems so
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far reaching in some of the parts of people's lives that seems like a good way to get a core sample from an awful lot of different changes. so i was really kind of a great fall to the company for presenting at south so clearly at the laboratory for these things when it did it. >> host: i want to come back to the question of women because that is one of the most interesting things in the book but i want to go back to the early years because this is a work of history about wal-mart and so much of the writing about wal-mart as you mention is by economists or social scientists are other people who don't have a long view and when you to come as with a long view it as such a different picture. so one of the things that struck me in reading the book is that wal-mart grew up in a region of the country that was known as the heart of anti monopoly sentiment, a citadel of people's party and a populist movement and the fight against the chain stores in the 20s.
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so how did this happen? added we get to an anti chain soared to the biggest chain store in the world? >> guest: that was a shock to start looking at the early signs of not only wal-mart stores in the ozarks region of northwest arkansas and south was missouri, the kind of a redhead and stepsister to appellation in sort of our sense of the mountainous south, but a wonderful place, and when you look at places not only where wal-mart stores started the whether infrastructure got started, some of the same place name started popping up as with the most concerted effort of a different alternative economic vision that the 19th century where people or from these rural areas saying there is an expanded role possibly for government and economy. there are serious problems with
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an economy organized around major corporations and yet here they were the seedbed of what was now the largest corporation in the world which means the largest one in history, so how did that seemingly contradictory out, take place and is the thomas frank question of what is the matter of kansas if you want to put it in frankly political sense, how did people who were at one point big plans of using government power to rein in corporates power, how did they become such bands of a wal-mart of this mechanism? so in the late '20s and early '30's, in fact, some of them descendants of the populace in the same region were not only fighting large corporations, they were fighting specifically the large corporation model that would become wal-mart that has chain stores chain distributions. so at the time there was a great
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deal of animosity for these outside actors coming in with this form capital have a driving small businesses out and so forth and yet these are exactly the places where wal-mart is taken to be a standard bearer now of awhirl america and what to see at the time is oddly this sort of a liberal establishment of the late '20s and early 30's arguing on behalf of the large corporations and saying chain organization is in the most efficient and therefore the most modern and, yes, there are some labor problems that we're very confident that chains are just made for unions. and unions will be welcomed into chain stores because that is modern and efficient and all these problems with low wages and long hours will be worked out and, of course, it is exactly the opposite. and what really seemed kind of extraordinary at the time was
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how much the anti chain forces, these small towns in the ozarks, the battle was being portrayed as a religious battle in parts. that the anti chain forces were called the fundamentalists and were being derided sometimes in the national more liberal press as the defending, being on the same level as the scopes trial which is a very recent memory at the time. so this bush, on the one hand, from the kind of industrial north and the liberal establishment to say these people need to get a grip and figure out that economic efficiencies dictate that they will ultimately be absorbent into these large chain organizations and saying that this was a religious position and anti modern, so those elements are all present from the get go and, of course, the entire chain forces are defeated.
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which allows a wal-mart and subsequently to rise, but it does start in a very different light if you understand that wal-mart before there was a wal-mart had to win this major battle. >> host: let me say i should probably have for our listening audience that she may be hearing a been a buzz in the background and seeing people walk by the intelsat and that is because we are meeting at the organization of american historians and all meeting in seattle where professor bethany moreton houma i am speaking with here is on a panel and lots of other historians are doing what we do we get together but i am speaking with bethany moreton, the author of a "to serve god and wal-mart: the making of christian free enterprise". i want to ask you also about how you did your research. i know you grew up in mississippi and you have some access, but you are looking at the most powerful company on the
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planet and you are not necessary given them a free time on a lot of the questions of how to do your research? what were your key sources? to the people at wal-mart talk to you? how did you get in? >> guest: you know, for people who are interested in corporations as sort of major international actors this is always the big question, there is no freedom of information act as sources privately held companies to make their internal records on the way a state actor is and so at the more influenced by corporations have the bigger of a question and there is for historians and researchers generally that here are these major forces shaping our lives and there is no particular reason why they should let you in our talk to you are sure you anything at all. so i had to try to imagine getting access whatsoever -- up you tell a story about a company
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that was undoubtedly a major player over the last quarter of a century worldwide, and yet have no particular reason to end by a researcher in. so of course i started by trying to address the company formally, you are a student, a doctoral student and there are people who will take pity on such folk. that didn't really go anywhere. but meanwhile i had imagined and this other side of sources to be a time of the doughnut a record and get the whole. so the point was i wound up successfully researching were more for example of a charitable efforts that wal-mart funds which are great places in which people talk about what is important to them and what they see themselves doing in the larger sense so they're actually a wonderful source and there is a lot more reason to imagine access mayor. the church as and the religious
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institutions where people who work in the wal-mart, worked for wal-mart, where they gathered and those are very welcome in places and people are always willing to talk to about their faith if you're willing task. being from a mississippi was a big help because frankly i like arkansas. i love living in the ozarks. it was funny sometimes to be back up at yale and have people say, gosh, i really pity you down there in the trenches in arkansas, but i love this place. many friends doing best and was a very happy living there. going to church with people and meeting people. i interviewed a lot of folks who worked many years for wal-mart in lots of different positions, they were invariably, have very intelligent analyses and stores that were incredibly and lightning and very respectable of my interest. i think just communicating to be bona that you think what they did was important and that it
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has had a major impact is directly, it is something we don't often remember i think as historians matters to people. there were parts of the story as you mentioned went into latin america, was treated like an honored guest by anyone of the people that i met in central america, and then, of course, of the archival records is not of i'm just an internal documents. people would give me for example, the internal magazines from wal-mart. >> host: i used to work in a library is a periodical assistant at paul a speefour graduate school and these are publications that would not be bound because . >> guest: rebound is amazing things in called house organs, a publication that companies put out to advertise which are incredibly rich sources and we spend most of our waking lives
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and work, people are deeply invested in what they're doing on the job and particularly in these early magazines from the '70s and early '80s some very unselfconscious kind of cell revelatory instinct. and i would make people were mentioned in the articles and i would introduce me to other people. the sources now publicly available i should mention or available to the public through archives in kansas, i have a full run out, but at the time there were kind of hard to get your hands on so i was grateful to the people who would pass on their copies and explain what the magazine had meant to people inside the company. some of the story is involved republic sources among government documents, that kind of thing, but a lot of it was with a really fun treasure hunt. and i learned a tremendous
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amount. >> host: i felt in reading the bits that you had a from of the publication that you really got inside the culture and maybe you could just tell us some of the stories that were there that are where people love of the wal-mart and this sort of it sam walton phenomenon and away the shop floor was run in some of the relationships between the managers and workers -- could you give us a feel of what was in the early records before it became this huge corporation? >> guest: of course, people understand the company is shaped by its post 1992, post 994 version but from the earlier company you have to think of these as stores that were sort of replacing the town square. a small town by a small town and they would frequently be located in county seat house because, of course, our farmers are custom and the south to coming in on a meal lichens on saturdays and doing their shopping and also that among other reason sam
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walton was careful of a joy to producing county seat towns. you had a performing the same function in many places as the old town square, people would talk about how they loved working as wal-mart because and this is important to say that the people i interviewed were very insistent that the store and get out, how much they appreciated working for a company where they were taken seriously, treated with respect, where they have a chance to be at the center of action in the town. in the stores were very kind of a wild and crazy sides, they work country music broadcasts, cost him days, constantly, all sorts of stunts. reasons to bring people into the store to to like a public space. of course, a privatize public space which is an important distinction, but a way to kind of makes shopping entertainment and make a full family activity with emphasis on keeping it --
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and so a lot of people talk about how working in that environment was a good thing for them women whose other career were largely performing household chores. some of them for paying. >> host: you're going exactly where i want to, let me pause for a minute and remind people we're talking to bethany moreton, the author of a "to serve god and wal-mart: the making of christian free enterprise". and you just hit upon something that i really wanted to hear more from you about and that is this dimension of the book which i haven't seen in any other study of wal-mart and that is your focus on women and on women as really important actors in the story, not famous women but the women who shop at wal-mart and women who worked at wal-mart and you argue that they really shaped this corporation and a service economy. that's kind of a bold claim to make budget persuaded me. if you could tell our listeners because they will be skeptical. >> guest: is a question of how
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you conceptualize structure in a workplace, there is a lot of could take right now and rightly so that they corporation of some of the women in service workplaces hasn't really been all it could have been for women workers. that, in fact, and these remain surly at wal-mart some of the lowest paid worst band of its worst hours, these are not prestigious jobs, these jobs don't carry that kind of security and benefits and so forth that you would hope would be part and parcel of working in this country. what a lot of people from the earlier years particular were saying was we are moving out of our economies into these places, these are people who unlike in the urban north were you have firm generation's going to factories, these are going straight into service and bring a whole different sense of what work is about. and if you think about it, the relationship, we're both in the service job ourselves. most americans are ever since
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1956, it has been the majority of the workforce and what the service work to that other kinds of work don't require is the creation of that relationship between for us teaching our students, people and other service jobs is the relationship between and a service provider and applied for the customer. and for some many people it is easy to say that is false consciousness, that is just a sideline. people ought to be more deeply invested in in more concrete work and certainly we all want to get paid in good health insurance, but for women in these front-line service jobs they did transformed the workplace according to their priorities and a sense that that relationship of service became not only at the forefront of a wal-mart id in the stores were these women are both a service provider and the customer and frequently people are one of one day of the week and one on the
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other, the same people. but also it became managerial gospel and this was not from the top, it was not an automatic development, this was taught to the upper management by these women in the shop floor. and for them as far as us the satisfaction of a performing service for someone else and not to be taken lightly. you can see in business literature, in evangelical advice literature this prior addressing a women's work and care and service for other people working its way up from the bottom. and so to look at and on unionized wal-mart store and say this is a failure is a tune limits i think our analysis of what is important to people at their jobs and two fell to extend to people in service jobs
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the same kind of respect for the satisfaction of doing a good job that we assume the sun and other white-collar service jobs. so these women have a real impact in you'd hear from the management saying, you know, the backbone of wal-mart is these women in their late to late 50s who are department managers which is a particular category of really the most able job and wal-mart, these motherly women, mothers and grandmothers, working these jobs and bringing the skills they have from performing service work for their families. in this world communities into the service jobs and teaching that as of fundamental set of skills. and it was recognized as geld. we talk about these unskilled jobs but anyone who has worked such a job knows there is no such thing as an unskilled job there is just wal-mart was one of the few places where there were call skills and recognized
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and not always in the way you would hope at least very publicly very explicitly and it had a real impact so a lot will say, look, we know we weren't being paid well and we know this is not the best deal and a son but it wasn't the worst deal either when you look at what the options were. as one of the things i appreciated. >> host: you're overall approach is so apathetic to all of the characters and you really try to inhabit their world and kind of understand things their eyes and so really engaged their own sense of the value of their work in the case of these women and i think that that really helps us to get at this phenomenon in a way that we have been able to before because people haven't looked -- there's been a lot of judgment in looking in and out that kind of empathetic view, and somehow you do manage to do both because you also to talk about the fact that
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wal-mart now is facing the biggest sex discrimination case in world history. and it is systematically throws and women at of a higher management positions and confine them to certain places and yet you help us understand why it is so many women can still be happy working for a company that does that. i want to talk about one other element before we need to break, that is related to this and this is going back to the issue of wal-mart coming out of this region that was so dead set against the chain stores and seemed to me that the discussion you have of the women and men in the workforce and families to assess new insight into that to appear in in the sense that the fact that so much of the workforce was female made the company not as threatening to those ideas of manly independence as a chain store might have been had they employed all men, have been men were working on the shop floor and told of the shirts and putting out things. that might have been a little
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less well, i would think in the region that you are talking about. >> guest: absolutely in the early five in the 20s and thursday's one of the principal critiques of the chain store was that it was on manley work, that she would take man who brought in a natural order of things by these are to rise to the status of running their own stores and essentially an analogy to running their own firm and being the master of their household, that in a chain of virginia could do that. these men were partly frozen in this low-level clerk in positions where there were always ticket orders and this was really as in your own work on the planet in the park at a georgia where i live, there was a great deal of is it -- anxiety about trapping white men in these positions. a part of the genius of the wal-mart model which has been replicated all over the world and all forms from factories on
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the border where young women assemble 10 issues -- tennis shoes to wal-mart itself, the genius was rather than try to keep men in this position and it than that which was not lying, two simply bring family structures into the workplace and use them as a new source of value because, of course, women have always done this work. it has just been held outside of a commodity relationship. it has not paid so to bring women and their traditional familial work into a paid position, what is your competition perhaps no one else is paying for this work and recognizing that. formally -- firm feliz are used to this that everyone performs an economic task and this is in the same as having an ornamental wife at home whose only job is to shop. everyone in wal-mart country -- exactly. so this model actually instead of being a throwback really was
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actually hyper modern. what you can do is to start from a farm economy and skilled that factory moment, you skip all of the baggage of having a male breadwinner who somehow is economically independent and instead just bring the family structure directly into the store and that is how people talk about that i spoke to, it was so much a family relationship families include hierarchy and economic relationships, not just about sentiment. but they do sentimentalize, they do bring human relationships into that economic model and that is not the worst of all worlds for a lot of people. >> host: it's interesting, i was thinking about the early 19th century when industrial capitalism was developing in america and we have this revolution and everyone wants to be a free holding independence man to have economic autonomy
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and power, so hot you bring a factory system in their and the way that problem that's all for the circle of squares and the early 19th century bringing in these young women who never would have been allowed to have economic independence anyway and who were seen as just working for a brief time before they went off to get married. that is what i thought of when i found this. >> guest: in the magazine fortunately the girls were illiterate and a lot of this documentation. in the 19th century did you see people encounter factory positions and they react and is a lot about it. when is the people and have a service discipline for the first time i have a lot of great interest to say about that that applies for most of the american workforce so i think we ought to be students of that encounter. >> host: i think we're going to take a brief break now and then pick up with the interview with bethany moreton who is the author of


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