I have both a narrow and a broad matter to raise, although they arise from the same point: Joseph's inclusion of Walmart in the retail-core.
In the table detailing three longer-term members of each -core, Walmart's listed market value is over 3.5 times the combined value of the next two listed firms (Tesco & Carre). This would suggest that Walmart's dynamics likely overwhelm the rest of the components in the proxy. Indeed, Joseph's own work on Walmart shows a differential dynamic very similar to that of the retail-core . And, we know from Joseph's analysis that Walmart has suffered a differential stagnation for over two decades. In fact, Walmart's expansion of its grocery retail has come in response to that stagnation meaning most of its growth, dominating the retail-core proxy, occurred before it was a food retailer. As such, is it appropriate to include Walmart in the proxy? What happens to the proxy if Walmart is removed? Are the dynamics markedly different? How might that change the story of power redistribution within the food arena?
Additionally, when Walmart gets included in the proxy it is the company's total net-income rather than its earnings from food. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Walmart makes available data on relative sales or profits from its grocery and non-grocery segments. A 2010 article
from the Wall Street Journal suggested that the year prior, grocery sales accounted for 51% of Walmart's U.S. revenue. It seems reasonable to assume that grew steadily since Walmart first introduced groceries as it has expanded the number of Supercenters that contain the grocery sections. However, we don't know the relative margins between its grocery and non-grocery operations nor how that may have changed with the increase in its grocery operations. Therefore, we don't know if the share of profit has also grown as much or as steady.
This leads to the more general matter, which Sandy (sanha) has already raised: the distribution of competition and cooperation within and between sectors. The WSJ article linked describes the effort of smaller grocery chains to prevent Walmart from opening stores. In fact, there is a consulting company that specializes in blocking, stalling and halting Walmart's expansion. The company has been hired by Supervalu and Safeway, which are likely in Joseph's retail-core proxy. This highlights the level of struggle within the food retail segment.
Such intra-segment strife may serve as further evidence for general stagnation within the segment. If the segment were growing, then there is less need to put time and effort into fighting each other. But, if the pie seems to be as big as it is going to get, then you begin to fight to expand the size of your piece at the expense of your sectoral compatriots.
For the purposes of Joseph's article, he considered the shared interests within each sector. However, I think part of the power of the CasP approach is that it doesn't require us to ossify such distinctions and divisions. Instead, we can recognize them as dependent on the struggle under consideration. In this case, Joseph looked at the distribution of power among the various sectors linked via the food pipeline. And, he did an excellent job of pairing his quantitative analysis up with qualitative details that supported his sectoral categories. But, we ought not to consider these groupings definitive. Instead, what we need are more mappings of how interests are continually circulating, connecting, overlapping, pulling apart and conflicting.
Baines, Joseph. 2015. 'Encumbered behemoth: Wal-Mart, differential accumulation and international retail restructuring.' In van der Pijl, Kees. Handbook of the International Political Economy of Production
. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. See Figure 9.1.