A. Nicot – Assignment 9: Walmart

The first thing that should be said and gotten out of the way is that corporations exist for and are to driven to one purpose: money. Walmart may have once been some small local business and then an up and coming chain, but it is today an organization whose size defies understanding. And it has one purpose, as defined by it’s board of directors: maximizing profits. “Walmart” doesn’t care about you or me, they don’t really care about making items more affordable for your average consumer. They perpetuate consumerist society and are the primary beneficent of it (along with many other financial and corporate entities). This is not a criticism, this is a reality.
All entities have purposes – life must survive, kings must rule, and corporations must maximize profit.

The rise of corporations in the realm of humanitarian aid can only be seen in this light. Corporations do not have souls, they aren’t alive, they are incapable as entities of feeling compassion or a sense of human connection with those it funds. Joe Schloe working in accounts may well care, he may well not, and CEO Jack Walmartstein might himself donate large portions of his obscene salary to charitable and humanitarian causes, but Walmart doe not follow the logic of humans in this regard, but the law of financial gain. What do Walmart and other similar actors gain from all this humanitarian effort?

This is not at all a move to gain PR. Not at all.

Firstly, the most obvious one, good PR. A soulless bureaucratic corporate entity seems practically familial if you know it dedicates it’s money to giving those poor children with cleft lips the operations that they keep banging on about, or if they help feed a starving Sudanese village. Doing good in the world. This extends to the concept of corporations sponsoring recent social and political trends to cash in on potential allies: for example video game company EA suddenly supporting the gay rights movement and its associates (laughable due to the obvious PR move by a thoroughly discredited entity). Starbucks has also participated in this sort of game, so it is not beyond the reach of the imagination that a more ambitious foreign humanitarian project is right up Walmart’s alley – if even Pamela Anderson can build schools in Africa, so can Walmart.

Secondly, corporations gain access. As Hopgood writes, “Governments become a source of lucrative contracts for both NGOs and firms,” and Walmart can certainly earn big bucks from governments by doing their job for them – and no doubt they obtain a contract on the side. Not necessarily Walmart though, since it is almost exclusively an American brand, not likely to be found anywhere else. Let’s not even discuss the big bourgeois corporations that supply us with our daily delicacies and our luxuries. Let’s discuss mining corporations, drilling corporations, and so on. Of course, minerals must be mined and oil must be drilled, but typically it is the role of states to mediate such exchanges of resources, but corporate entities bypass this by appealing directly to the government and then doing the same to their “home” government to pass on the benefits of their actions, at a price.

Hopgood also understands the liberal connection – Evidently, since corporations benefit from economic

Globalization in effect – consumers are the actor.

liberalism, they benefit from it’s implementation. Since economic liberalization is both a motor for and the result of globalization, corporations have every reason to support globalization: no tariffs, no barriers to trade, no principle of cultural exception; more consumers, more consumable products, standardization of culture means ease of manufacture, standardization of politics and language means ease of distribution and advertising. This all makes it easier for corporations to fulfill their purpose, profit maximization. Economic liberalism works hand in hand with social and political liberalism, for reasons that would take quite a while to explain – but history has shown they follow and precede each other. Hence why corporations jump on social trends.

So can Walmart or other mega-corporations be humanitarian? No, not really, they are incapable of human thinking and motivation. Can they create humanitarian initiatives and projects along the same lines that states and traditional NGOs can? Yes. Should they? No, due to their motivations. Unless of course you’re fine with their general purpose.

Hopgood, Stephen. “Saying “No” to Wal-Mart?” Humanitarianism in Question : Politics, Power, Ethics. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2008. 98-123. Print.

Martinez, Elizabeth, and Arnoldo Garcia. “CorpWatch : What Is Neoliberalism?” CorpWatch : What Is Neoliberalism? CorpWatch, n.d. Web. 24 June 2013. <http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376>.

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