Serving God and Wal-Mart

Paul Harvey

This book was on my reading list even before it was published; now that it is out, and reviewed smartly here at Religion Dispatches by Diane Winston, even more so:

Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise.

Just a bit of the review here; click above for the rest.

Wal-Mart’s success, both in reframing traditional gender relationships for a new corporate environment, and in sanctifying
working-class consumer capitalism, help explain the connections between conservative politics, the market economy and family values. But Sam Walton also had a major role in spreading the gospel of Christian free enterprise, an amalgam that linked religious principles, government support, and entrepreneurship. Even as business was becoming the default major on campuses, Walton and his friends sought to bend the curricula, first toward vocational training, which became a source for unpaid interns, and then to entrepreneurship, which lionized the visionary leadership provided by individuals exercising their God-given autonomy.

The focus on the individual as entrepreneur echoed religious themes that valorized individuality; particularly the importance of each person’s unique access to God and responsibility for his own salvation. Not surprisingly, alongside the teaching of (Christian) service and free enterprise, college business programs also taught students to be wary of government encroachments in the form of taxes, regulations or oversight. But these same programs gladly took government aid and encouraged students to use federal funds to further their own professional goals. Government was a one-way street: the expectation was that it should support entrepreneurship without expecting anything in return. It was the old Populist notions reinterpreted by Christian capitalists on steroids.


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