Jacobin, the magazine that gives socialist perspectives on politics, economics and culture, has an interesting article on Bentonville, the Walmart/Walton company town.


The article is, for one, a fairly comprehensive catalog of the ways the Walton fortune has been put to work making Bentonville a more attractive place to live. (It could stand to delve more into how the progressive gloss on the town has failed to bring a similar change in the politics of the area’s elected representatives.)

The theme is critical:


The Waltons are using their charity, the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) to bankroll the conversion of small-town Bentonville into a playground for Walmart’s management class and supply chain vendors, with expansion of the arts, foodie culture, education, transportation, and mental and physical health associated with the consumption norms of a professional-class labor force.

The WFF presents itself as an altruistic, philanthropic charity dedicated to the well-being of the wider Northwest Arkansas (NWA) region. But the foundation’s self-appointed role of NWA’s regional developer actually functions as a three-pronged accumulation strategy for the Walton family. The WFF serves as a tax shelter in which the Walton family stashes its financial largesse to avoid paying Uncle Sam. In turn, the Foundation uses the Waltons’ sheltered fortune to finance public improvement projects that are intended to attract skilled workers to Walmart headquarters region as it shifts to e-commerce retailing. Then, as Bentonville develops economically, the Walton family is well-positioned to capture rents that flow into the region as a consequence of the Foundation’s efforts to make the place a more appealing location to do business.

The Waltons have deployed their charitable foundation to exploit Bentonville’s willingness to trade democratic control over planning and decision-making for access to Walton capital. In this twenty-first-century take on the company town, WFF’s philanthropic urbanism scales up private control over urban governance structures from the piecemeal public-private partnership model of early neoliberal urban privatization efforts to one that is more all-encompassing — portending a dystopian urban future in which a corporation’s philanthropic arm has the ability to remake an entire metro area according to that corporation’s whims.

Agree or disagree, there are many details of interest developed by writer Stephanie Farmer, whose mother lives in Bentonville. Politics. Planning. Tax law. Wealth. And more.