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In the decades after World War II, evangelical Christianity nourished America’s devotion to free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. The history of Wal-Mart uncovers a complex network that united Sun Belt entrepreneurs, evangelical employees, Christian business students, overseas missionaries, and free-market activists. Through the stories of people linked by the wo In the decades after World War II, evangelical Christianity nourished America’s devotion to free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. The history of Wal-Mart uncovers a complex network that united Sun Belt entrepreneurs, evangelical employees, Christian business students, overseas missionaries, and free-market activists. Through the stories of people linked by the world’s largest corporation, Bethany Moreton shows how a Christian service ethos powered capitalism at home and abroad. While industrial America was built by and for the urban North, rural Southerners comprised much of the labor, management, and consumers in the postwar service sector that raised the Sun Belt to national influence. These newcomers to the economic stage put down the plough to take up the bar-code scanner without ever passing through the assembly line. Industrial culture had been urban, modernist, sometimes radical, often Catholic and Jewish, and self-consciously international. Post-industrial culture, in contrast, spoke of Jesus with a drawl and of unions with a sneer, sang about Momma and the flag, and preached salvation in this world and the next. This extraordinary biography of Wal-Mart’s world shows how a Christian pro-business movement grew from the bottom up as well as the top down, bolstering an economic vision that sanctifies corporate globalization. The author has assigned her royalties and subsidiary earnings to Interfaith Worker Justice (www.iwj.org) and its local affiliate in Athens, GA, the Economic Justice Coalition (www.econjustice.org). (20090316)


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In the decades after World War II, evangelical Christianity nourished America’s devotion to free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. The history of Wal-Mart uncovers a complex network that united Sun Belt entrepreneurs, evangelical employees, Christian business students, overseas missionaries, and free-market activists. Through the stories of people linked by the wo In the decades after World War II, evangelical Christianity nourished America’s devotion to free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. The history of Wal-Mart uncovers a complex network that united Sun Belt entrepreneurs, evangelical employees, Christian business students, overseas missionaries, and free-market activists. Through the stories of people linked by the world’s largest corporation, Bethany Moreton shows how a Christian service ethos powered capitalism at home and abroad. While industrial America was built by and for the urban North, rural Southerners comprised much of the labor, management, and consumers in the postwar service sector that raised the Sun Belt to national influence. These newcomers to the economic stage put down the plough to take up the bar-code scanner without ever passing through the assembly line. Industrial culture had been urban, modernist, sometimes radical, often Catholic and Jewish, and self-consciously international. Post-industrial culture, in contrast, spoke of Jesus with a drawl and of unions with a sneer, sang about Momma and the flag, and preached salvation in this world and the next. This extraordinary biography of Wal-Mart’s world shows how a Christian pro-business movement grew from the bottom up as well as the top down, bolstering an economic vision that sanctifies corporate globalization. The author has assigned her royalties and subsidiary earnings to Interfaith Worker Justice (www.iwj.org) and its local affiliate in Athens, GA, the Economic Justice Coalition (www.econjustice.org). (20090316)

30 review for To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    While somewhat unfocused, this book does a very good job of tracing the origins of the marriage between neoliberal capitalism and evangelical Christianity that's been such a prominent feature of our politics in recent decades. Its primary value is in analyzing some of the ways in which the conservative ascendancy of the last 30 years was actively built by Sun Belt postindustrial service workers themselves, in contrast to the What's the Matter With Kansas thesis that tends to see them as little m While somewhat unfocused, this book does a very good job of tracing the origins of the marriage between neoliberal capitalism and evangelical Christianity that's been such a prominent feature of our politics in recent decades. Its primary value is in analyzing some of the ways in which the conservative ascendancy of the last 30 years was actively built by Sun Belt postindustrial service workers themselves, in contrast to the What's the Matter With Kansas thesis that tends to see them as little more than dupes of the ruling class. In doing so, it fills in some of the gaps in the argument made by Kim Phillips-Fein in her book Invisible Hands, which focuses on the top down counterrevolution of business elites while papering over their intimate political and ideological relationship with cultural/religious conservatives. These two books should be read together if possible, and both make important contributions to our understanding of contemporary American politics and culture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    This book started out quite fascinating, but by the end I was skimming through entire chapters and ready for the book to be over. The book was not well organized, and I feel like the author's central ideas were lost amid vast quantities of minutiae. Additionally, Moreton repeats herself constantly throughout the book as she brings up previous topics, which is why I feel that the book could have used a reorganization before publishing. That said, the book did have some good insights and I found a This book started out quite fascinating, but by the end I was skimming through entire chapters and ready for the book to be over. The book was not well organized, and I feel like the author's central ideas were lost amid vast quantities of minutiae. Additionally, Moreton repeats herself constantly throughout the book as she brings up previous topics, which is why I feel that the book could have used a reorganization before publishing. That said, the book did have some good insights and I found a few of the points Moreton made to be quite interesting. These include reforming a version of masculinity in terms of the Christian servant leader in order to compensate for the emasculation that came from service work as opposed to factory work; defunding of higher education by the government leading to increased industry support and propaganda-feeding to college students; how poor rural folks went from populism to supporting industry and the policies that constantly exploit the rural poor; and finally the internationalization of global companies, and how Wal-Mart helped NAFTA get support. I wish that Moreton had spent a bit more time talking about women and how they were seen as service workers not worthy of promotion within Wal-Mart. She only very briefly talks about the class action lawsuit where women sued Wal-Mart for lack of promotions to management positions. However, she does spend at least two chapters talking about a student group that evangelizes to grade school students about the benefits of the free market, which I found to be much less interesting (at least not worthy of two whole chapters). If I could rate this book 2.5 stars, I would, but I round it down just because I had such a hard time finishing the book. I feel that it could have been so much better.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    In To Serve God and Wal-Mart Bethany Moreton outlines the history of the retail giant and its relationship to the 1970s and 1980s Evangelical revival and rebirth of free enterprise economics. The book is at its strongest when Moreton examines how the evangelical revival reshaped shopping and consumption as something wholesome. She notes that, although personal consumption remained “outside Protestantism’s sacred circle, [helping] others consume… ‘for their families’… could be a sacred calling." In To Serve God and Wal-Mart Bethany Moreton outlines the history of the retail giant and its relationship to the 1970s and 1980s Evangelical revival and rebirth of free enterprise economics. The book is at its strongest when Moreton examines how the evangelical revival reshaped shopping and consumption as something wholesome. She notes that, although personal consumption remained “outside Protestantism’s sacred circle, [helping] others consume… ‘for their families’… could be a sacred calling." In contrast, her exploration of the culture at Wal-Mart and produced by Wal-Mart is substantially less compelling. The book oscillates between the personal reminiscences of individuals who worked at Wal-Mart in its early days and treating Wal-Mart as an institution. Ultimately, this dual focus dilutes the strength of her central argument. While some of the former employees are critical of their employer, the interviews as a whole are neither as damning of Wal-Mart nor as supportive of a Christian service-ethos as she seems to want them to be. Her argument that female retail staff pushed the corporate culture toward Christian service seems intuitively true, but I found that her evidence supporting that Wal-Mart changed because of the women who worked there lacking. Similarly, the discussion of Wal-Mart as an institution is constrained by a lack of access to corporate records and former executives. While she does an excellent job identifying which churches executives attended, which pro-business groups they supported, and which scholarships they funded, ultimately much of her evidence felt circumstantial. I do not disagree with Moreton, but I am ultimately unconvinced that Wal-Mart did more than adapt to its client base. Moreton’s dual focus on individuals and the institution also made it difficult to tell if she used Wal-Mart as a ‘way in’ to the economic and religious world of the 1970s and 1980s or if she thought that Wal-Mart acted as a causal agent in those debates. This confusion was especially apparent in the chapters on SIFE and education. Although Sam Walton and/or his company’s influence within these organizations is important, I was left to wonder if Wal-Mart simply reacted to forces in its social environment. Had the book refrained from discussing the details of SIFE competitions or wandering into detail about the growth “entrepreneurship education” and kept a tight focus on the relationship between the revival of evangelical Christianity, rural consumerism, and Wal-Mart her argument would have been substantially stronger. I appreciated that Moreton refrained from outrage and condemnation, all too common in discussions about Wal-Mart, but wished she had been slightly more forthcoming about her sense of Wal-Mart’s intentional role shaping the government, religion, and the economy. I found it nearly impossible to read To Serve God and Wal-Mart without applying Moreton’s arguments to Occupy Wall Street. In many respects, the dominant narrative about the reasons for Occupy Wall Street represents the Tyson’s™ chickens coming home to roost; the rapid movement of capital, combined with the “distant,” “closed” world of Manhattan banks, anti-unionism, America’s service-based economy, and the evolution of formerly white collar jobs like secretaries and accountants into “the new middle class” has finally proved unsustainable. Yet, the 99% certainly encompasses residents of “Wal-Mart Country.” Moreton did not analyze Wal-Mart shoppers in as much detail as I would have liked. I wonder how the OWS/99% movement complicates the picture of Wal-Mart’s constituency that she does present.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    There is a lot of interesting information to consider here, but this is not the MOST accessible of history books. The general goal here is to answer the question "What's the matter with Kansas (or, the Midwest in general)?" Why do the descendants of the populists of a century ago continually vote for arch conservatives? Moreton argues that they have fully invested in the ideology of entrepreneurship and "Christian Free Enterprise," and the best example of a company that embodies Christian Free E There is a lot of interesting information to consider here, but this is not the MOST accessible of history books. The general goal here is to answer the question "What's the matter with Kansas (or, the Midwest in general)?" Why do the descendants of the populists of a century ago continually vote for arch conservatives? Moreton argues that they have fully invested in the ideology of entrepreneurship and "Christian Free Enterprise," and the best example of a company that embodies Christian Free Enterprise is Wal-Mart. There is a lot here about big business investing heavily in college business programs in the South and Midwest starting in the 70s, and the way that investment helped lead to a generation of farm boys and girls coming out of those schools as conservative free enterprise types. Moreton brings in discussion of a new ethic of "Christian service" too, how the service economy became something that was supposed to reflect family values, how companies like Wal-Mart were supposed to reflect the family (Women in less responsible jobs so they could be Moms at the same time, Men in more responsible, management positions; both sexes with responsible, Christian service ethics.) Are you thinking that this sounds interesting or boring as hell? It is interesting AND sometimes boring as hell. I skimmed the second half a bit. I think reading this book does provide valuable insight into the conservative movement and 20th century politics. But it is complex and confusing and hard to wholeheartedly recommend to the average reader.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    In terms of whether this book was good for a historiography class, it would definitely be a 5-star choice, since there was lots to think about and lots to discuss. I thought the book itself was rather problematic, though. It seemed very much like two separate books, one about Wal-Mart and one about the development of business schools/curriculum at Christian colleges. These two things aren't unrelated, but the author didn't do a particularly effective job in integrating them. I am definitely proud In terms of whether this book was good for a historiography class, it would definitely be a 5-star choice, since there was lots to think about and lots to discuss. I thought the book itself was rather problematic, though. It seemed very much like two separate books, one about Wal-Mart and one about the development of business schools/curriculum at Christian colleges. These two things aren't unrelated, but the author didn't do a particularly effective job in integrating them. I am definitely proud to work in one of the "values forming" disciplines that big business wanted to remove from the curriculum! It was fascinating and appalling to see big business and Christian fundamentalism (for lack of a better word) coming together in favor of a collegiate curriculum that actively discouraged critical thinking and the development of ethics.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Establishes the ways in which Wal-Mart helped to inculcate a spirt of Christian free enterprise in the Ozarks, working to build a globalized, neoliberal economic order with the support of what had historically been a hotbed of fundamentalist, anti-business populism. By filling many of their needs/ desires, and soothing their concerns about their place in a rapidly changing society, Wal-mart was able to enlist rural, Christian conservatives as its core constituency, its costumer and employee base Establishes the ways in which Wal-Mart helped to inculcate a spirt of Christian free enterprise in the Ozarks, working to build a globalized, neoliberal economic order with the support of what had historically been a hotbed of fundamentalist, anti-business populism. By filling many of their needs/ desires, and soothing their concerns about their place in a rapidly changing society, Wal-mart was able to enlist rural, Christian conservatives as its core constituency, its costumer and employee base.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Linnea

    Moreton's greatest flaw is that she's too thorough. Several readers comment that she's disorganized and repetitive, but I don't think this is really hitting the head of her weakness. She just writes so much, and so thoroughly researches every element of her work, that it becomes difficult to really understand how and why she's pulling all these threads together - to understand whether and why it's important to have endless interviews with Wal-Mart employees . . . their parents, and spouses, and Moreton's greatest flaw is that she's too thorough. Several readers comment that she's disorganized and repetitive, but I don't think this is really hitting the head of her weakness. She just writes so much, and so thoroughly researches every element of her work, that it becomes difficult to really understand how and why she's pulling all these threads together - to understand whether and why it's important to have endless interviews with Wal-Mart employees . . . their parents, and spouses, and chickens, and so on. Yet, while it's not easy to feel out the task at hand (because, quite frankly, there are probably several dozen tasks dripping from your fingers after only a few pages in), once you get past feeling like this is a text book addressing a whole bunch of stuff you didn't want to read about in high school, it becomes apparent that what Moreton is doing is indeed quite relevant. Moving beyond the acknowledgement that churches and Wal-Marts are everywhere, one might begin to ask how religious and corporate institutions influence not only what ends up in our bodies, closets and fridges at the end of the day, but also what ends up in our minds too: our beliefs, our voting tendencies, our purchasing habits, and our colonial pursuits. Moreton carefully examines each of these. Like many bad first-year essays, Moreton's book boils down to its point at the very last moment, in the epilogue: "economic restructuring [in favour of free enterprise] eliminated public provisions to seduce footloose transnational capital. In the vacuum that was left by the eradication of the safety net, churches and other faith-based organizations became the provider of last resort. Their family values rendered care a private privilege awarded in defense of marriage, not a mutual social duty of citizens to one another. The irony was that both the corporations and the churches were already public-private partnerships by definition, built with public subsidy and dependent on state nurturance" (269). In a summary of what she's covered in the preceding 270 pages, Moreton continues explaining the relationship between church & market: "the gospel of free enterprise answered for the loss of the yeoman dream of self-sufficiency; it sanctified mass consumption; it raised degraded service labor to the status of a calling; it offered a new basis for family stability and masculine authority even as the logic of the market undermined both; for some whites it eased the dismantling of the official white supremacy." These last few pages begin to bring forth images of Moreton, seething and salivating against CEOs, finally crying out, as her epigraph on the other end of the book ever-more-quietly does: "Solidarity forever"(!) However, regardless of Moreton's own political or religious positions, she makes it clear that she's not here to trod-down the upwards-treading. Instead of lambasting Christianity, or cracking down on Capitalists/Republicans/Rightists, she reminds them of their own battle cries and attempts to revive them. "The invisible hand and the hand of God," she concludes, "are not easily mistaken for each other when the former proves so fallible." It may take the realization that we've been doing things wrong in order to start doing them right; and while 'servant leadership' has suffered its abuses, Moreton encourages us that in order to move forward, we will at last need a true "servant heart." It's this last line that brings this book, for me, from a 3-star to a four. I recommend this book for those of us who have seen the failures, but who don't want to give up.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Overall impression: This book is insightful in describing how Wal-Mart rose to prominence and how it mobilized Christian values such as ‘service’ and ‘providing for families’. But it didn’t convince me that it created a distinctively ‘Christian free enterprise’. I think the free enterprise spirit was already strong in American culture, and it was dressed up and recast as a central part of Christian identity in order to gain the allegiance of its employees and consumers. How did Wal-Mart become a Overall impression: This book is insightful in describing how Wal-Mart rose to prominence and how it mobilized Christian values such as ‘service’ and ‘providing for families’. But it didn’t convince me that it created a distinctively ‘Christian free enterprise’. I think the free enterprise spirit was already strong in American culture, and it was dressed up and recast as a central part of Christian identity in order to gain the allegiance of its employees and consumers. How did Wal-Mart become a corporate giant in a region that was deeply suspicious of corporations and monopolies? P16 Despite dominant antipathy to corporations, the area that would become Wal-Mart country was also familiar with arguments supporting modern, large-scale business, so long as they were operated by and for the farmers. P24 Wal-Mart arose out of the populist tradition of farmers’ cooperatives. Corporate legitimization came in two stages. First, it was structured as a traditional family business and then as a cooperative, uniting ownership and management. P28 Using his wife’s family land and her trust fund as collateral, Walton borrowed enough money from a Texas bank to open his first Wal-Mart Discount City in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas (same year as K-Mart, Woolco, and Target). Discount genre characterized by self-service, stripped-down physical plant, low profit margin, and huge stock turnover, catering to the working class of the postwar expansion. To increase investment, Walton offered his early managers the opportunity to become limited partners in return for investing in the individual stores they managed and future ones yet to be built. Each store incorporated in a separate partnership, blending the independent, small-scale family business with a cooperative-style chain. Why do southerners and rural folks love the military so much? It’s not just because they’re patriotic—the Cold War defense industry provided a reliable mechanism for redistributing national wealth to the South and West. This industry then supported a secondary sector of service, entertainment, and recreation. Why do corporations move their managers around so much? Helps orient them towards the company as a whole rather than to an individual store. Why do Wal-Mart shoppers love their guns so much? Guns are symbols of individualism, self-empowerment, and masculinity P76 None of the company rhetoric effusively praising their low-level workers, their “associate” titles, benefits, or company profit sharing came about until unionization efforts in 1970. Why did Wal-Mart get away with offering such low wages? They drew their workforce from rural areas accustomed to long hours and low pay as farmworkers. Secondly, they tapped into the Christian notion of service as a higher calling. How did Wal-Mart make mass consumption acceptable in a Christian culture that frowned upon materialism? The discount store model was touted as “helping people provide for their families.” How did Wal-Mart come to be so closely associated with ‘family values’ and the religious right? It certainly wasn’t the Walton’s doing or their executives. It percolated up from the bottom of their workforce—mothers who were both employees and consumers. Ironically, Wal-Mart put a lot of small Christian stores out of business by carrying Christian books and merchandise.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)

    I didn't enjoy this as much as I wanted to. It's been on my tbr for ages, and I was excited to finally find it. I though the author missed an opportunity to talk about the underlying anti-gay nature of the use of traditional masculinity, but it was interesting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ira Lacher

    The title is somewhat misleading, as the book is more about the emergence of various groups and movements that have propelled the U.S. toward a Ferengi-like adulation of business uber alles.Walmart is a prime factor, of course. But although many of the probusiness think tanks arose in the American heartland, the "Christian" aspect of its appeal is only tenuous. Still, there is a great deal of insight on the background behind the pro-NAFTA movement as well as SIFE, an organization I'd never heard The title is somewhat misleading, as the book is more about the emergence of various groups and movements that have propelled the U.S. toward a Ferengi-like adulation of business uber alles.Walmart is a prime factor, of course. But although many of the probusiness think tanks arose in the American heartland, the "Christian" aspect of its appeal is only tenuous. Still, there is a great deal of insight on the background behind the pro-NAFTA movement as well as SIFE, an organization I'd never heard of but was behind much of the free enterprise groupthink. Plodding but worthwhile.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    A fascinating look at how Wal-Mart invented and influenced the rise of "Christian capitalism" in early and mid-twentieth century rural America.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    The formation and growth of Wal-Mart in the heart of a state like Arkansas represents a paradox of populism and corporatism. In actuality, Wal-Mart capitalized on southerners’ traditional fear of outside corporate chains and foreign entrepreneurs by billing themselves as in line with the wholesome local country store, not the corporate chain. The origins of the chain depended on a correction of the corporatism criticized by populists in the area, as well as taking advantage of government funding The formation and growth of Wal-Mart in the heart of a state like Arkansas represents a paradox of populism and corporatism. In actuality, Wal-Mart capitalized on southerners’ traditional fear of outside corporate chains and foreign entrepreneurs by billing themselves as in line with the wholesome local country store, not the corporate chain. The origins of the chain depended on a correction of the corporatism criticized by populists in the area, as well as taking advantage of government funding for new corporate ventures. In fact, Wal-Mart positions its origins in the communal response of local businesses banding together to combat larger chains and discount stores. Its expansion began primarily in what came to be known as Wal-Mart country—the area of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri that saw the stores take hold in smaller towns with federal money coming in. Sam Walton’s small-town mentality towards hiring and presentation, as well as his entrepreneurship and gift of expansion, allowed him to fill the region with larger chains that had a distinctly non-chain feeling. The hierarchy of the stores was modeled after traditional rural familial structures in the area, as opposed to the military organization used by other corporate chains. In order to combat the stereotype of the feminized store clerk, Wal-Marts hired males (treated as adults even if young) in supervisor roles, and woman in subordinate positions. This family structure also bred an atypical level of interdependence, as well as a new work ideology of service that permeated Wal-Mart culture. This reorganization resulted not only in better customer relationships, but better relationships between managers and coworkers as well. All of these major changes in the chain structure made by Walton allowed the emerging Christian Right to attach moral Christian family values to the structure of Wal-Mart—its clean aisles and service ethos were able to recreate a sanitized version of small town life within the store itself. Interestingly, Wal-Mart was never openly aligned with the Christian Right, but served as a model of conservative Christian business practices and morality by recognizing their primary customers shifting needs and desires. Wal-Mart became heavily aligned with revaluing women’s position in the home, subtly reinforcing the Christian service notion of women as selfless shoppers, as well as the male dominated workspace. Adjusting to the feminization of the workspace, maculating the “servant leader” ideal allowed a successful corporate culture to be established by Wal-Mart, while not necessarily giving the kind of benefits one would expect from a large successful company. Also, by recognizing the desires of its employees and customers and intertwining them with traditional management tactics, Wal-Mart successfully created an environment of growth in which they were able to go out into the surrounding Christian colleges to find new conservative business leaders to manage and represent their new stores. These changes in managerial structure occurred with technological innovations both in evangelical culture and Wal-Mart culture. To the detriment of the liberal arts, the 1970s also saw a reactionary conservative emphasis on business and economics in secondary schools and colleges (especially Christian schools) to combat the antibusiness sentiments of the previous decade. Universities and colleges that did not refocus towards a more business minded curriculum faced funding problems, while schools that did shift their focus saw increased federal spending. Organizations like Students in Free Enterprise (sponsored by Wal-Mart) began to focus on encouraging students in new evangelical colleges to pursue careers in conservative business by creating competitions and fellowships. Its connections with private evangelical institutions served to reinforce a Christian conservatism in the upcoming generation of Sun Belt businessmen—the future leaders of Wal-Marts. These students became evangelists of free enterprise in a time of deficit and began fighting rampant government spending, sending SIFE into the public sphere of electoral politics. Wal-Mart executives, including Jack Shewmaker, began politicking through SIFE in order to encourage economic education and a restructuring of congressional and business practices. With the fall of the USSR, Wal-Mart began internationalizing and leading the way towards economic globalization and a redistribution of worldwide labor. The company brought technology, American business practices, evangelical Christianity, and rural family values to places all across the globe—their free-trade ethos was now what many countries knew of the United States. Initially, Wal-Mart was primarily interested in overseas production, but eventually found that it could expand its retail market all over the world, thereby bringing this gospel of free trade with them. Wal-Mart formed a complicated relationship with world trade organizations, and after the formation of NAFTA, began buying up retailers around the globe to expand its vision of American identity, Christian values, and corporate globalism into the twenty-first century.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    Bethany Moreton manages to do something extraordinary in this book. She tells an interesting and surprising story about Wal-Mart, conservative Christians, and Arkansas to a national audience and does so without resorting to caricatures, stereotypes, or one-dimensional pictures. The central thesis of the book is that the Ozark culture in which Wal-Mart was born including its values and religion was adopted by the retail giant and came to shape the face of American politics and economics in the 19 Bethany Moreton manages to do something extraordinary in this book. She tells an interesting and surprising story about Wal-Mart, conservative Christians, and Arkansas to a national audience and does so without resorting to caricatures, stereotypes, or one-dimensional pictures. The central thesis of the book is that the Ozark culture in which Wal-Mart was born including its values and religion was adopted by the retail giant and came to shape the face of American politics and economics in the 1980s and 90s culminating in the passing of NAFTA in 1993. Moreton demonstrates that the rise of the Sun Belt and the conservative politics associated with it was neither inevitable nor spontaneous. Rather, it was a carefully cultivated social movement made possible by conservative religion, changing family dynamics, and the partnership of major corporations and small private colleges. Moreton’s history of the Ozark region and the South generally emphasizes two things about the region. First, it was not the North. Wal-Mart country was never industrialized, never unionized, and only rarely immigrated to after the original settlers established the states. The Ozark region was composed almost entirely of White farmers and small businessmen until the middle of the 20th century. Second, the shocking success story of Wal-Mart in particular and the Sun Belt in general was built on the foundation of wealth acquire from elsewhere – New Deal infrastructure projects, wealth redistribution policies that moved Northern capital Southwards, and ultimately land taken from Native Americans and worked for generations by African slaves and their descendants. Despite the entrepreneurial rhetoric, Sam Walton didn’t build Wal-Mart on his own. Each of these elements set the stage for a period of massive economic growth which began when much of the country was in the midst of recession. Despite the fact that Wal-Mart Country was home to some of the fiercest populist sentiment in the country, Sam Walton managed to create not only the largest corporation in the world, but managed to make the Ozark people see it as a boon to their local communities. Walton was perceived as a humble small town man who financed locally and made his employees associates in the company rather than simply clerks and stock boys. Moreover, he managed to make the service industry a career path that was open and acceptable to men when it would formerly have been seen as work suited for boys and women. But Walton was able to do so, Moreton contents, only because he listened and learned from the conservative Christian women who worked the registers and the aisles in his stores. Though powerful CEOs and government officials appear, these women are the real heart of Moreton’s book. The women of Wal-Mart brought their culture into the workplace and it transformed retail business into the service industry. They did not see their work for Wal-Mart as demeaning or drudgery. Rather, they relished the chance to serve their neighbors and families by helping them save money, providing advice on purchases, and chatting at the checkout line. Shopping came to be seen not merely as godless consumption but as a domestic duty necessary for the sustaining of a family, and Wal-Mart employees took pride and pleasure in helping make the work easier and more enjoyable. This emphasis on service passed from the blue smocks to the white collars as Wal-Mart managers embraced a new leadership style and a new social identity. These changes to male leadership flowed not primarily from corporate gurus or economic theories but from local pulpits and radio preachers. Men were called to be servant leaders in the home and in the church. These tactics quickly made their way into corporate culture at Wal-Mart and paid huge dividends for the company. These “soft patriarchs” (117) and the women whom they “served” not only provided the public face of the company but also shaped the corporate practices that would characterize it for generations. In the post-Vietnam era, with its weakened economy and international destabilization, business in America suffered from an exceedingly poor reputation especially among those with a college education. The 1970s also saw a decline in college enrollment especially in the private religious schools that dotted the Arkansas landscape. The colleges and universities needed funds and students. Businesses like Wal-Mart needed a chance to shape the attitudes of the young and place from which to promote free enterprise. So it is no surprise to see corporations investing heavily in small conservative colleges and intercollegiate organizations like Students In Free Enterprise. What is surprising is the success with which both organizations in this partnership experienced. Through aggressive work at the grass roots level, there emerged in America a substantial new political coalition committed to free enterprise, not just as good economics, but as a manifestation of Christian virtue as well. During the Regan administration, these types of programs spread to Central America via the Walton Scholarship program which paid for hundreds of promising young people from Central America to study at one of three Arkansas Christian universities – College of the Ozarks, John Brown, and Harding. These connections with conservative Christianity proved valuable to Wal-Mart again. Conservative churches had been perfecting communications strategies and grass roots organizing for years due to their marginal status in American society, but changes in seniority rules and party politics in Washington suddenly changed the way that politics was done in America. Policy issues now had to be addressed specifically with a large number of voters in an organized fashion. Moreover, foreign contacts were needed at the grass roots level, and Christian missionaries associated with Southern universities had been developing such contacts for decades. Wal-Mart and its allies capitalized on these skill sets and used them to expand political influence and ultimately pass the North American Free Trade Agreement largely on the back of rhetoric inspired by the world’s largest Wal-Mart newly built in Mexico. Moreton’s book raises some interesting topics. Her treatment of the changes in gender roles within the nuclear family and the rise of the service industry is fascinating and, I thought, compelling even if overstated at times. What I especially appreciated was the fact that Moreton did not presume to speak for what the women of Wal-Mart “really cared about.” She asked them. Their embrace of wifely submission, lower wages, and paternalistic management structures is hardly the story that one expects to hear from a feminist scholar today. But Moreton presents their view of things in a compelling fashion such that these women come across as wise and compassionate mothers whose priorities extend beyond paychecks and positions of power. The same is true for the international Walton Scholars. Moreton is up front about the fact that Walton set up the program at least primarily as a strategy for growing his business, but she is too honest a writer to leave out the fact that the students who came North to study were manifestly blessed by their experience and have in turn been a blessing to their home countries and companies. Her ability to present the real lives of the people she studies in all of their complexity is the book’s greatest strength. Naturally there are critiques to note as well. The organization of the book struck me as odd at times, and Moreton’s tendency to hop around chronologically could be confusing. She occasionally has to stretch a little further than I was comfortable with in order to make her point. The discussion of servant leadership as a means to stabilize the shifting gender roles of the 70s and 80s occasionally sounded too conspiratorial and did not give adequate attention to the role of the Roe v. Wade in galvanizing evangelicals (both male and female) around the issue of abortion. Moreton also occasionally describes complex social changes in family, business, and political life as causal relationships rather than organic ones. Moreton’s has been my favorite of the books I've read for a PhD seminar on Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Maybe that’s because I’m interested in the economic angle, or maybe it’s because it didn’t turn out to be the hatchet job I expected. Regardless, she’s an impressive author, and a scholar that I’ll be interested in following.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Bethany Moreton provides a dense, rich and multi-layered history of Walmart's rise to become the largest corporation in the world – at once an economic history, gender studies examination, and cultural history. There's a lot to unpack in this book, but one of the primary questions Moreton seeks to answer is how the anti-corporation populists that made up the residents of northwest Arkansas came to embrace and uplift what has now become synonymous with rapacious late-stage corporate capitalism. Th Bethany Moreton provides a dense, rich and multi-layered history of Walmart's rise to become the largest corporation in the world – at once an economic history, gender studies examination, and cultural history. There's a lot to unpack in this book, but one of the primary questions Moreton seeks to answer is how the anti-corporation populists that made up the residents of northwest Arkansas came to embrace and uplift what has now become synonymous with rapacious late-stage corporate capitalism. The key, for Moreton, is a combination of federal policy, good luck, and savvy embrace of evangelical Christian values while the company was still in its infancy. As the title implies, Moreton focuses primarily on the Christianity – describing how the collapse of industrialization and farming in the 1960s led women to enter the burgeoning service sector to supplement their families' stagnating incomes. Retailers like Wal-Mart benefited, then Wal-Mart specifically took notice of the ways in which women – both employees and shoppers – changed the culture of its stores and intentionally modeled its business to emphasize that conservative, family-friendly, religion-infused ethos. Of course, Wal-Mart would never have gotten to that point without Sam Walton, and the land his wife's family received from the federal government, the speculation on which he and his family then profited from, nor could he have expanded the way he did without business-friendly federal policies. Like many people in the rural South, Walton and his store were happy to accept their own assistance from the government, but rejected any of the responsibilities that should have come with it, including ensuring the livability of their wages for their employees or using their billions in profits to pay taxes to uplift others throughout the country. Once established, Wal-Mart moved to maintain its place in the market by using small evangelical colleges, student organizations and international scholarships to recruit new employees, propagandize for laissez-faire free market economics that benefited its bottom line, and expand its footprint internationally. This section of Moreton's book gets a little long – she sidetracks through an overly comprehensive history of the Studnets in Free Enterprise organization – but it again reinforces how Wal-Mart achieved its position: in part by spurning, weakening and profiting off the gutting of the government-backed institutions and programs that Walton and his allies had used to support their own dreams decades earlier. As a cultural history and economic history, Moreton delivers a tremendously informative book, and her all-too-brief analysis of gender roles within the company is truly fascinating. As late-stage capitalism continues to barrel toward the cataracts of inequality and monopolism, the story of how Wal-Mart became the first company to epitomize those dangers is important and telling.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mscout

    The spectacular rise and astounding success of retail giant Wal-Mart has puzzled business observers for decades. How did someone who seems like nothing so much as a ‘hick from the sticks’ shepherd a single five and dime store in rural Arkansas, the heart of the anti-corporatist stronghold that had “fought against large corporations and for increased government safeguards,” into the largest corporation in the world? Author Bethany Moreton frames the story as “the Wal-Mart paradox.” According to h The spectacular rise and astounding success of retail giant Wal-Mart has puzzled business observers for decades. How did someone who seems like nothing so much as a ‘hick from the sticks’ shepherd a single five and dime store in rural Arkansas, the heart of the anti-corporatist stronghold that had “fought against large corporations and for increased government safeguards,” into the largest corporation in the world? Author Bethany Moreton frames the story as “the Wal-Mart paradox.” According to her, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, turned what for many would seem like insurmountable obstacles into defining advantages. By tapping directly into the social fabric of the rural communities in which his stores were located, Walton was able to dominate retail competition and force that same outlook out into the larger world as well. Moreton tells the history of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart from Walton’s very earliest days as an entrepreneur in the Ozark Mountains. That area in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas is isolated, insular, and ideologically conservative. An area that had held onto a lifestyle of family farms far longer than most, it was also an area that opposed big business most stridently. As Moreton stated, it was an area that “suffered at the hands of Northern railroads, Eastern banks, and industrial monopolies that demonstrable extracted wealth in a semicolonial relationship with the hinterlands.” However, Walton was able to turn that mindset to his advantage by presenting his company as local. Walton’s business plan called for only local investors, at first family members. Later, he offered his store managers the opportunity to become investors, which allowed him to avoid the ire of those most opposed to industrial monopolies. Walton could present his stores as locally owned and operated which gave him a distinct advantage over other mass retailers, such as Target and K-Mart which also opened their first stores in 1962. Once the first stores had shown a pattern of success, Walton added economic efficiencies to the mix. Walton carefully planned the expansion of his company. New stores opened concentrically from the distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas. His goal was that no store be more than a day’s drive from the center. Additionally, as the company spread, it moved outward one community at a time. This allowed for word of mouth to spread to the neighboring communities, thus ameliorating the need for advertising expenditures. Walton’s greatest entrepreneurial genius may have been demonstrated through his melding of a “populist corporate image” with an “evolving Christian culture.” The stores were also structured on the traditional family units that had been prevalent on the farms, with the men at the head of the family and the women in a subservient role. This led to a management cadre that was almost exclusively male, and an entry level workforce that was almost as exclusively female. As Moreton described it, Walton took advantage of harsh economic times and used the fundamentalist bent of his community to his advantage in hiring and promoting workers. As Wal-Mart started adding stores, the Ozark communities in which they were being built were losing many family farms. Those women who were newly seeking employment outside the homestead for the first time were happy to receive the minimum wages jobs. Additionally, Walton and the Wal-Mart managers have positioned their stores as the wholesome alternative to “big city” retailers, by really pushing “the whole family values thing.” Though eschewing such labels well into the 1990s, the company has wholeheartedly embraced this identity from that point forward. This may have been after conservative Christian leader Ralph Reed stated that “if you want to reach the Christian population on Sunday, you do it from the church pulpit. If you want to reach them on Saturday, you do it in a Wal-Mart.” By positioning the company in this way, Wal-Mart has been able to take advantage of the growing “Southernization” of America and expand the brand across the country and the globe.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hotavio

    In To Serve God and Wal-Mart , Bethany Moreton examines the rise of the bohemoth discount chain in the strange cultural vaccuum that is the Ozarks. She begins by noting the region as a hotbed for Populism at the turn of the 20th century and how it struggled through the Great Depression as American declined as an agricultural economy. Marrying Protestant ethos and pride with the theme of regional protectionism, Sam Walton's Wal-Mart rose from a group of five-and-dimes to embody a new economic sp In To Serve God and Wal-Mart , Bethany Moreton examines the rise of the bohemoth discount chain in the strange cultural vaccuum that is the Ozarks. She begins by noting the region as a hotbed for Populism at the turn of the 20th century and how it struggled through the Great Depression as American declined as an agricultural economy. Marrying Protestant ethos and pride with the theme of regional protectionism, Sam Walton's Wal-Mart rose from a group of five-and-dimes to embody a new economic spirit and eventually a national and global crusade. Moreton does an excellent job relaying how Wal-Mart challenged the notion of the white-collar job as the effemination of the workforce and how, by adopting a familial hierarchy, the Wal-Mart model was able to reclaim masculine dominance in a society where women had gained new liberies. Furthermore, Wal-Mart utilized the idea of entepreneurship and consumerism as a way to fulfill Christian acts of service to others, reinforcing ideas of a "Christian free enterprise." Moreton's first 4 or 5 chapters are well-written. Where she stalls is in the necessary, but overly drawn out histories of the region's Christian colleges which would form strong partnerships with Wal-Mart in the late 70s and 80s. While these four or so chapters crawl, she makes the connections to acknowledge how radically evangelical and business-driven college programs with a distinctive Ozarkian bend become politically important to the rise of free enterprise in the 80s and for Wal-Mart's national expansion and eventual globalization through partnerships in Central America and the passage of NAFTA in the 1992. The book closes with food for thought as Moreton touches on Wal-Mart's encroachment on the neighborhood, with St. Thomas, New Orleans as someting of a case study. This "urban renewal" was heavy with racial implications. Moreover, Wal-Mart's actions during the Katrina outmaneuver the inept FEMA and give pro-business anti-government critics ammunition. One could surmise, Moreton implicitly suggests a connection George W.Bush's interest in the privatization of public services and a horribly botced federal response, which may not be too far off the mark. In its grand response to the flooding, Wal-Mart is able to shake some of the negative attention for its anti-union, low-wage, foreign sweatshop reputation and stand as a testament to the power of Christian free enterprise when the government failed to respond. Overall, some chapters in Moreton' book could stand alone as excellently written essays, while others suffer from torpor.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    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 suppos 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found this book to be very thoughtful and I felt it provided a good social history of the United States in the 20th century. The focus is on a single company that has chosen to identify itself with "Christian" and "American" values, but Moreton includes discussions of changes in the global economy (i.e. the transfer of manufacturing jobs to "developing nations") and the subsequent shift to a more service-oriented economy in the United States. In her rendering, Wal-Mart's success comes from mix I found this book to be very thoughtful and I felt it provided a good social history of the United States in the 20th century. The focus is on a single company that has chosen to identify itself with "Christian" and "American" values, but Moreton includes discussions of changes in the global economy (i.e. the transfer of manufacturing jobs to "developing nations") and the subsequent shift to a more service-oriented economy in the United States. In her rendering, Wal-Mart's success comes from mixing the folksy yeoman's culture of the South with a relentless free-market idology. Probably the most interesting parts to me were the discussions about how Protestant Ministers actually spoke forcefully against franchises in the early part of the 1900s. The belief was that if local merchants weren't able to make basic decisions about their businesses it would have a detrimental impact on rural family life. If life were dictated by Eastern corporations and banks, the argument went, then folks in the South would lose their sense of self. As Moreton writes, Wal-Mart's response to this was to develop a kind of "Populist Corporatism" with the figure of Sam Walton standing in for the role of the ideal hard-working protestant male who everybody can relate to. So, in other words, as long as the workers of Wal-Mart feel they are working for a Christian company that shares their values they can overlook many things (like working on Sundays for lousy pay). Another ironic aspect to Wal-Mart's corporate philosophy was the funding of institutes to promote free enterprise which actually churned out very few entrepreneurs and very many people (mostly men) who later just went on to management positions in large American corporations (like Wal-Mart). There is a lengthy discussion of how Sam Walton promoted Universities to study and promote free enterprise. This is not "studying" in the academic sense but promoting something that was believed to be unquestionably good for the United States and the world. I have spent a lot of time in Wal-Mart in my life so much of what Moreton wrote I could relate to. I do feel this book does a fair and sensitive job of examining a company that has become sysnonomous with American culture.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ron Bronson

    The story of Wal-mart is one that has been chronicled and reviewed in a glut of documentaries, books and throughout the culture in recent years. This book deconstructed the myth of Sam Walton creating an empire from his bootstraps and paints a more complex picture of timing, opportunity and government help that evolved from mom-and-pop origins to create the world’s largest retailer. Where this book is extremely valuable, is the unpacking of the history of the U.S. during the post-war years. There The story of Wal-mart is one that has been chronicled and reviewed in a glut of documentaries, books and throughout the culture in recent years. This book deconstructed the myth of Sam Walton creating an empire from his bootstraps and paints a more complex picture of timing, opportunity and government help that evolved from mom-and-pop origins to create the world’s largest retailer. Where this book is extremely valuable, is the unpacking of the history of the U.S. during the post-war years. There’s an ethos that we’ve consumed as a culture that says the olden days prosperity came from a lot of self-help, when the reality was a lot of government aid birthed the prosperity of the Greatest Generation. The problem of the book is that it was an upchuck of stories from the older, bygone days of Walmart rather than the modern state of the firm and how it operates in the global economy. That might not have been the desired focus and that’s why we get what we do now, but…that made it harder to read and eventually made me tune it out. Still, it’s a worthwhile bookshelf book from the perspective of the historian seeking understanding to the ways that the myths of white populist Southerns have been promulgated beyond generations, as a lot of smaller towns have been propped up for decades by various schemes of investment made years ago and have left places that might have otherwise been impoverished as economic engines in their own right.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    "To Serve God and Wal-Mart" is a well-researched exploration into the role Wal-Mart played in developing and exporting the socio-cultural political economy of the Sunbelt: the hybrid of evangelical Protestant Christianity and "free market" fundamentalism. Moreton shows how Wal-Mart was able to build on and invert a pre-existing populsim, how a "servant" ethos was able to make the service economy safe for conservative gender roles, and how Wal-Mart played a key role in funding and building instit "To Serve God and Wal-Mart" is a well-researched exploration into the role Wal-Mart played in developing and exporting the socio-cultural political economy of the Sunbelt: the hybrid of evangelical Protestant Christianity and "free market" fundamentalism. Moreton shows how Wal-Mart was able to build on and invert a pre-existing populsim, how a "servant" ethos was able to make the service economy safe for conservative gender roles, and how Wal-Mart played a key role in funding and building institutions--particularly in colleges and universities--that promoted a business Christianity of conservative religiosity and neoliberal economics in the Ozarks, throughout the country, and even abroad. Moreton is attuned to the ways that social, religious, and cultural practices and identities interface with the world of economics; indeed, they often form the soil for any economic vision. The book is informative and compelling, even if it does start to lose steam toward the end. It is a particularly interesting read during an election in which prominent evangelical leaders are backing a presidential candidate who so regularly flouts "family values" but upholds conservative gender roles and, more importantly, a right-wing economic vision.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    Moreton's account of Christian free enterprise and the expansion of Wal-Mart isn't the most organized book I've ever read, and there is lots of detail that probably wasn't necessary. Still, this book has a lot of valuable historical material in it. She explains how evangelical Christians from the Midwest became such passionate advocates of neoliberal economics and evangelized that ideology along with the Bible to Central and South America. She also helps explain the rise of the service economy, Moreton's account of Christian free enterprise and the expansion of Wal-Mart isn't the most organized book I've ever read, and there is lots of detail that probably wasn't necessary. Still, this book has a lot of valuable historical material in it. She explains how evangelical Christians from the Midwest became such passionate advocates of neoliberal economics and evangelized that ideology along with the Bible to Central and South America. She also helps explain the rise of the service economy, which at Wal-Mart manifested itself in an attempt to create a family dynamic between management and non-unionized labor rather than the more antagonistic Fordist labor system of the industrial period. This is a weird but interesting mix of labor, cultural, and religious history that illuminates many puzzling questions in recent American history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I think it could have been organized differently to make it clearer -- at times the thesis seems buried in the accretion of details about Wal-Mart newsletters from the 70s, free enterprise student clubs, etc. But overall a very interesting piece of historical work about how certain ideological and religious tendencies combined with a particular regional culture to change the economic and political culture of the entire country. Recommended to anyone interested in how we got to where we are now. A I think it could have been organized differently to make it clearer -- at times the thesis seems buried in the accretion of details about Wal-Mart newsletters from the 70s, free enterprise student clubs, etc. But overall a very interesting piece of historical work about how certain ideological and religious tendencies combined with a particular regional culture to change the economic and political culture of the entire country. Recommended to anyone interested in how we got to where we are now. And quite a little surprise at the end when the author name-checks Donna Steele, an IP and 1199 member! Seems she read the George Packer article in the New Yorker last fall that profiled Donna ( http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20... ).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heath

    Four years old now, but still an interesting story of the development of Wal-Mart and its intersection with the educational institutions and churches of the Ozarks. Particularly interesting was the focus on the development of clubs and foundations promoting capitalism at Harding, JBU, and similar colleges, and the degree to which these new programs became the core of the institutions' fund-raising schemes and educational mission. While there were clear relationships among the elements and institu Four years old now, but still an interesting story of the development of Wal-Mart and its intersection with the educational institutions and churches of the Ozarks. Particularly interesting was the focus on the development of clubs and foundations promoting capitalism at Harding, JBU, and similar colleges, and the degree to which these new programs became the core of the institutions' fund-raising schemes and educational mission. While there were clear relationships among the elements and institutions chronicled, there was not a particularly clear focus, and I didn't follow how several of the later chapters connected to the book as a whole.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is poorly argued, and I don't think that Moreton demonstrates the connections she is trying (I think??) to make. However, she avoids -- for the most part -- a "what's the matter with Kansas" type of argument, so that, at least, is refreshing; and if nothing else, she holds differing sets of values up for comparison in a way that could even be useful for discussion. I'm still not sure what her aim and intended audience were, though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Thoughtful analysis of the rise of Wal-Mart as it relates to evangelical Christianity, the history of the anti-chain-store movement, sex roles in American life, big-business infiltration of American schools at all levels from elementary to university, globalization, and a host of other issues. Moreton avoids easy answers and a cheap, Wal-Mart-bashing approach, while ultimately concluding that Sam Walton's mode of capitalism is ethically deficient.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Myev

    This is an incredibly well researched book on the synthesis between religion and commerce in post modern America. Some of her theoretical vantages could have been better outlined, if only to make the book more useful for future scholars (ahem, me) of American religious culture. I now know more about Wally world than I ever cared to, but overall, l really enjoyed this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Water Blakmon

    This shines a huge light on why many presidents claim Christianity as a tool to win over voters, but even more eye opening is how corporations are building a Christian free enterprise using the "Walmart mom."

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

    Insightful storytelling and helpful analysis of how theology always seems to accommodate what is economically expedient. I wanted a bit more offerings of imaginative alternatives, particularly on a local or provincial level. That's perhaps asking too much of a book like this, however.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Tanko Harmeyer

    Stupid. There's so much she could have done with this but this work is riddled with bad methodology, a multi-chapter tangent about college students and ignores larger issues of race and gender discrimination within the franchise.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tawny

    Brilliant historical overview of recent time coupled with incredible insight into the Christian culture of the southwest. I was blown away by every chapter. I can't recommend this book enough.

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