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Wal-Mart's Power Trajectory: A Contribution to the Political Economy of the Firm

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  • Baines, Joseph

Abstract

This article offers a power theory of value analysis of Wal‐Mart’s contested expansion in the retail business. More specifically, it draws on, and develops, some aspects of the capital as power framework so as to provide the first clear quantitative explication of the company’s power trajectory to date. After rapid growth in the first four decades of its existence, the power of Wal‐Mart appears to be flat‐lining relative to dominant capital as a whole. The major problems for Wal‐Mart lie in the fact that its green‐field growth is running into barriers, while its cost cutting measures seem to be approaching a floor. The article contends that these problems are in part born out of resistance that Wal‐Mart is experiencing at multiple social scales. The case of Wal‐Mart may tell us about the wider limits of corporate power within contemporary capitalism; and the research methods outlined here may be of use to scholars seeking to conduct political‐economic research on the pecuniary trajectories of other major firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Baines, Joseph, 2014. "Wal-Mart's Power Trajectory: A Contribution to the Political Economy of the Firm," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(1), pages 79-109.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:caprev:157912
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2009. "Capital as Power. A Study of Order and Creorder," EconStor Books, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157973.
    2. McMahon, James, 2013. "The Rise of a Confident Hollywood: Risk and the Capitalization of Cinema," EconStor Preprints 157854, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    3. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2012. "Imperialism and Financialism. A Story of a Nexus," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 42-78.
    4. Joseph Baines, 2014. "Food Price Inflation as Redistribution: Towards a New Analysis of Corporate Power in the World Food System," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(1), pages 79-112, January.
    5. Brennan, Jordan, 2013. "The Power Underpinnings, and Some Distributional Consequences, of Trade and Investment Liberalisation in Canada (Preprint)," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 715-747.
    6. Yuko Aoyama, 2007. "Oligopoly and the structural paradox of retail TNCs: an assessment of Carrefour and Wal-Mart in Japan," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(4), pages 471-490, July.
    7. Susan Christopherson, 2007. "Barriers to 'US style' lean retailing: the case of Wal-Mart's failure in Germany," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(4), pages 451-469, July.
    8. Thomas J. Holmes, 2011. "The Diffusion of Wal‐Mart and Economies of Density," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(1), pages 253-302, January.
    9. Cédric Durand & Neil Wrigley, 2009. "Institutional and Economic Determinants of Transnational Retailer Expansion and Performance: A Comparative Analysis of Wal-Mart and Carrefour," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 41(7), pages 1534-1555, July.
    10. Basker, Emek, 2011. "The Causes and Consequences of Wal-Mart’s Growth," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 5, pages 110-134.
    11. Baines, Joseph, 2014. "Food Price Inflation as Redistribution: Towards a New Analysis of Corporate Power in the World Food System (Preprint)," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 79-112.
    12. McMahon, James, 2013. "The Rise of a Confident Hollywood: Risk and the Capitalization of Cinema," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(1), pages 23-40.
    13. Jordan Brennan, 2013. "The Power Underpinnings, and Some Distributional Consequences, of Trade and Investment Liberalisation in Canada," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(5), pages 715-747, October.
    14. Cédric Durand & Céline Baud, 2012. "Financialization, globalization and the making of profits by leading retailers," Post-Print halshs-00737045, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mouré, Christopher, 2021. "Soft-wars: A Capital-as-Power Analysis of Google's Power Trajectory," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 2(1), pages 71-90.
    2. Baines, Joseph, 2015. "Price and Income Dynamics in the Agri-Food System: A Disaggregate Perspective," EconStor Theses, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157992, November.
    3. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2018. "The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(3), pages 1-39.

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