Your AWOL blogger here, just to make a quick point:

Bart is very right about what he says here. Chris’ poll is fun, and it’s interesting to see the results, but it’s worth emphasizing that Wal-Mart is not a person. It’s not a sentient entity.

We (human beings) seem to have an irresistible tendency to anthropomorphize, and it’s as true here as anywhere else. We conceive of Wal-Mart as a big bully, or a liar, or a hypocrite, or a sinner seeking absolution, etc. But those terms apply only to other human beings, from whom we expect a kind of unity of intention, will, or action.

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I argued here that we should view corporations as toddlers, but I think I was a little guilty even there of what I’m criticizing.

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It makes more sense to view the company as a big, sprawling machine, with many semi-autonomous parts and a variety of disparate operational mechanisms and goals.

In the end, it matters not at all what we feel about that machine. There’s no particular need for us to add up all the positives and negatives and come to a kind of summary judgment, some grand Yes or No.

All that matters is what we do in relationship to Wal-Mart. And what we do should be guided entirely by ruthless pragmatism. How do we get the results we want? How do we make Wal-Mart more sustainable? What are the pressure points? What legal, regulatory, and PR strategies can best leverage change?

That’s all that matters. A corporation has no feelings about you, and there’s no reason you should have feelings about it. It’s a money-making machine. Your job is to tweak its gears, or change the environment in which it acts. All else is sentimentalism.

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