Supermarkets for poverty reduction?

The quote of the day is interesting and reminds me of a blog debate I was following a couple weeks ago on whether or not supermarkets are good for poverty. Much maligned as evil corporate enterprises that cannabalise mom and pop stores and screw farmers down, supermarkets tend to eptomise all those things bad associated with progress...but is this really the case or are we yet again falling prey to belief in false binaries?

Personally when it comes to matters of "progress", development and poverty I tend to throw ideology out the window and drag in the pandora's box of empiricism.

So I found this quote interesting regarding superstores in developed countries

The expansion of superstores – like Wal-Mart and Target – has also played an important role in accounting for the inflation differentials between rich and poor. Superstores sell the same products as traditional shops at much lower prices. Today the poor do roughly twice as much of their buying of non-durable goods in these stores than the rich. So poor consumers have been the biggest beneficiaries of Wal-Mart coming to town.

And this one, from The International Food Policy Research Institute on the impact of supermarkets interesting too.

Supermarkets tend to charge consumers lower prices and offer more diverse products and higher quality than traditional retailers - these competitive advantages allow them to spread quickly...The food price savings accrue first to the middle class, but as supermarkets spread into the food markets of the urban poor and into rural towns, they have positive food security impacts on poor consumers.

Not that I remain convinced that supermarkets are all out great, but I do believe that their power and hegemony to exclude is often times vastly overstated.


    there's no doubt there are some good things about their ability to bulk-discount, and maybe reduce carbon emissions due to bulk transport.

    as a person who does not live in a developing country, i enjoy the experience of going to a supermarket, i like the discounts, i like the choice and the convenience.

    from things I've read, seen and experienced, though, i think any organisation with those kind of profit margins does usually end up being unscrupulous. i thought it was paranoia but it seems to be confirmed by experience time and time again. where big business exists, someone somewhere down the line is getting screwed over...


    i guess there are always trade offs, but since the rise of globalisation and the spread of corporations the world has seen unprecedented millions pulled out of poverty.... That is undeniable. Of course the gap between rich and poor has increased too. I think its a mixed bag but I personally hate sounding like a bleeding heart leftie chanting down with corporations. Like anything some are good some are bad.


    i think as I get older i become more of a raging lefty, not less! (I had to delete prior comment because of this. ha)

    i guess my feelings towards capitalism is one part idealist (this is the world we live in and forces of good can still triumph, sometimes in cooperation with corporations), one part realist - making good stuff happen with corporations is a shit fight and naturally, perhaps understandably, their primary concern will always be profit.
    And so, although I agree there will always be trade offs, I think it's healthy to approach them with a degree of mistrust.

    it's very ironic me writing this, considering I eat shit on a daily basis (as Mayor Tommy Carcetti from the Wire would say).

    i think the more I have contact with the daily runnings of a rather big business, the more my inner Táta Vega (as seen in Hair, the American Tribal Love Rock Musical Smash) begs to come out.

    i understand you on the other hand getting fed up with extreme left development students who want to burn down KFC in Cambodia.


    mistrust is healthy!

    Anyway, I though the debate was interesting. I like reading things that dispel my preconceptions, or at least challenge them. One thing I've really come to notice recently, I guess especially after doing fieldwork, is that everyone sits around talking about how the world works and what's going on, but its largely speculation based on their own political leanings. It's not until someone goes out there and conducts some study that you can challenge preconceived ideas. And then you still need a body of work, not just a single study.

    I did check out your wiki link in the last post, yay for wiki. I think the problem with so many of these debates however, if that they treat issues like "trade" as one amorphous whole....and then debate the merits of "trade" as either good or bad. From what I've noticed a lot of debate at my university is moving away from this type of binary (except for the staunch old marxists, there will always be a few).

    What is emerging in its place is the acceptance that there is not one "trade" but millions of "trades" that occur all over the world and in different contexts. Afterall what is trade but a set of relationships between people. This being the case, it would be a gross overstatement to say that all people that work in multinationals are evil, although I'm sure some are.

    But on a wider scale I think that this is possibly why Doha has failed and why unilateral trade agreements are flourishing. There is not one type of trade but many. How then could they all be bad? And if we treat them as such then I think we close off the possibility to negotiate and improve them?

    I guess this type of question is largely academic, because from what I have been reading lately it seems that food markets, producers and consumers are engaged in a far more dynamic and contestable set of relations than many would have us believe.

    Gosh, if only I could apply this sort of writing zeal to my thesis.....


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