Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A skinny latte and an Americano, please

In "Monthly Review", USA, Michael Hoover, professor of political science at Seminole Community College in Central Florida and author (with Lisa Odham Stokes) of City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema, writes an interesting piece on Starbucks. Basically, it is about what makes Starbucks work as a mega-sized marketing chain of coffee shops.

Hoover introduces Adam Smith into his discussion in a most interesting way:

“What can Starbucks tell us? In a nutshell, contemporary "counter-cultures" -- cultures that are not counter to anything but are in fact part and parcel of the dominant culture sold over the counter everywhere -- are merely attempts to stylishly wed Adam Smith's "homo economicus" theory of markets in The Wealth of Nations with a regard one should have for others that Smith expresses in The Theory of Moral Sentiments -- in other words, capitalism with a "humane face" that leaves one "feeling groovy."

I congratulate Professor Hoover for showing evidence of understanding something of Smith’s legacy beside the usual tripe about laissez faire, invisible hands, the absence of
government and no matter what corporate giants do it will all work out right in the end.

Starbucks stats are impressive: founded in 1971 in Seattle, it now has 9,000 locations (6,500 in US) in 31 countries. It turns over $4 billion a year from 33 million customers daily and is worth $10 billion. Opens 3 new coffee shops some where each day.

Monthly Review is a left leaning magazine of some long vintage, from Herndon, VA, USA.


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