sexta-feira, novembro 18, 2005

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

There's something going on in America. When 7.000 community screenings of a low-budget documentary are organized throughout the US contesting the world's biggest retail company, something is certainly happening.

Robert Greenwald's (2004 Outfoxed) most recent documentary "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" faces this disproportionate giant with more employees than the US army (as Lewis Black points out in his Daily Show clip), with profits way over the hundreds of billion dollars each year, having outsourced much of its production sites to China, Mexico and elsewhere. And yet the question remains: what makes Wal-Mart different from, say, K-mart or Target?

This is one of the problems about this movie. By not addressing the full-implications of key-issues (foreign outsourcing being the most obvious), "Low Prices, High Costs" replicates a 'demonization' of Wal-mart - embedding itself in an ontology of good and evil. A similar case could be made with McDonalds. Is it enough to point out the symbolic nature of these companies? The particularly repugnant behaviour of Wal-Mart regarding anti-union policies (going as far as maintaining a fleet of private jets for 'hot' situations, i.e., social agitation), the miserable salaries or the lack of a health plan for its thousands of workers could be used as counter-arguments. And yet...

And yet. Playing the 'fear card', dismissing Wal-mart for the lack of security in its parking lots, seems just missing the point. And an interesting one was made right in the end: the means by which local communities engage (certainly in different ways) with 'grassroots' processes in refusing (and winning the battle) against the construction of new Wal-marts as in Inglewood.

Wal-mart is not alone, fair enough. But as an instrument for thinking and contesting American capitalism it's definitely worth while seeing.

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