Abstract: From Arkansas to Nicaragua: Wal-Mart's Private Sector Foreign Policy

Bethany Moreton


Today more than half of the world's one hundred largest economies are corporations rather than countries. While the relationship between the two forms of organization is hotly debated—do multinationals supersede nation-states or do they reinvigorate them?—there is no ignoring companies' parastate functions, from private armies to company-based immigration schemes to telecom satellite systems that rival those of the Pentagon. One area that invites serious reflection is the foreign policy that individual corporations undertake beyond democratic controls. Wal-Mart, the largest corporation on earth, offers a thought-provoking example in its founding family's charitable international scholarship program. Launched in the mid-1980s to combat the Communist threat in Central America, the Walton International Scholarship Program has helped win hearts and minds to a Christian vision of neoliberal restructuring, creating an ideological network that reaches beyond supply chains and suggests a "Bentonville Consensus" that shadows and enables the "Washington Consensus."