The purpose of this paper is to critically review the scholarly historical literature about Wal‐Mart and its relationship to the emergence of a retail service economy in the USA.
The review examines book‐length studies or collections of essays on Wal‐Mart. It highlights the developments that historians have linked to Wal‐Mart, and seeks to demonstrate both the progression of this historiography and the value of studying Wal‐Mart.
This young and relatively small historiography has developed quickly in recent years. Work in the last five years suggests that when historians use Wal‐Mart as a case study or template corporation, they can learn much about the development, nature, and trajectory of the postindustrial service economy and American political culture.
This is the first review essay of historical writing about Wal‐Mart. It will be useful to scholars curious about what has been written and what remains to be written about America's largest private employer and retailer, and the potential of such analysis for further insight into post‐1945 American society, economy, and culture.
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