The Third Place: Department Stores

When one wanted to buy something, they usually visit the shop selling a particular group of related items. For clothing, that meant going to the tailor. For shoes, that was a visit to the cobbler. The Small Businesses discussed back in Section One can serve that role, but as stated earlier, the role of Small Businesses in Production for Dasein is to fulfill special orders that require some degree of customization and specialization.

For larger Enterprises, including those manufacturing all kinds of apparel, their finished goods will be transported to the “Department Store,” where they will be sold to regular customers. The best way to conceptualize a Department Store without ever visiting one is to envisage several smaller shops consolidated into one large Enterprise, like an NSE (National-Socialized Enterprise) or an SOE (State-Owned Enterprise). Thus, instead of a number of scattered and seemingly disparate shops offering a specific line of items, the Department Store is designed to combine convenience with a larger range of finished goods. It is great for facilitating larger numbers of customers than most Small Businesses and most goods for sale do not require any customer to be assisted by an accompanying salesman.

Are Department Stores becoming Irrelevant?

The obvious downsides of most Department Stores are related to their costs. Since Department Stores tend to be expensive to operate at any given timeframe, Prices for finished goods are expected to be higher compared to Small Businesses. This makes them ill-suited for those who are interested in saving their Geld. The disadvantages are even more obvious in the other two Modes of Production, Production for Profit and Production for Utility.   

The most well-known Department Stores in the Western world have been American, their presence almost synonymous with the American city and shopping mall.  In the decades following the Death of Bretton Woods, US Department Stores have found themselves struggling to recover their positions between the first and second Modes of Production.

  • Production for Profit deemed them as being impractical due to their reduced ability to generate Kapital due to tending to create more Schuld. It is more likely to expect a Department Store to have a higher Quantity of Schuld than a higher Quantity of Kapital. The hegemony of the Department Store waned by the 1980s as “Discount Stores,” whose finished goods are only given lower Prices in part because of their own logistical supply chains. A combination of bulk purchasing for items and better logistics allowed them to gnaw away at the influence of Department Stores.      
  • As for Production for Utility, the rise of the World Wide Web (WWW) during the 1990s has displaced Department Stores thanks to the affordability and convenience of eCommerce services. These factors, together with the concurring rise of Supermarket chains, have forced Department Stores into the brink of near extinction. The Utility afforded by eCommerce has made it practically impossible for most Department Stores to operate under normal Liberal Capitalist conditions. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that whenever there is a major economic crisis, as evidenced by the Great Recession or the Coronavirus Pandemic, some Department Stores are forced to reduce its manpower or else shutter its doors.  

What enabled the hegemony of Department Stores to become so prevalent during the height of Bretton Woods? There are two important factors which were at play around this period. First, after 1945, a large portion of the US population began moving away from the major cities and toward the newly emerging “Suburbia.” Situated between the urban cities and the surrounding rural countryside, Suburbia provided those who moved with their own home and plot of land. In response to that trend, Department Stores have had to travel with them, establishing new branches away from the cities. The shopping mall proved essential in facilitating the transfer, ensuring that no one had to travel back to the cities just to buy what they need.

Furthermore, the growing inability of Department Stores to adapt to eCommerce has led to problems for those who are manufacturing and supplying goods for the Department Stores. Once the Department Stores are gone, these manufacturers and suppliers will be forced to find new partners who are willing to keep them afloat. Not all of them can be expected to work alongside the Small Businesses, which are not accustomed to filling large orders like the Department Stores, nor they can be expected to immediately adjust to eCommerce, which have their own suppliers or else are facilitating resales. Everything points to a future breakdown in the Retail Industries of the Services Sector, an event that has not yet happened but has remained anticipated since the 1990s.

Another Purpose for the Department Stores?

If the future seems bleak for Department Stores under Production for Profit or Production for Utility, then their fate under Production for Dasein is bound to be different. The Work-Standard can give them a chance to redeem themselves, in addition to providing them with a newfound purpose in the livelihoods of young people. The Socialist Student Economy (SSE) of the Socialist Nation needs facilities for the Student Body of secondary schools and university to obtain experience and opportunities to practice MTEP (Mission-Type Economic Planning). The latter is more so important for those interested in becoming Economic Planners and Accountants, Inspectors and State Commissars, Central Planners and Superintendents. If the Department Stores are willing to work with the Student Government of the SSE, they might be able to withstand the technological disturbances that were introduced by the National Intranet (and by extension, the International Internet). Those which are not interested are more than welcome to stay in the regular VCS Economy.

Speaking of the National Intranet, the Ministry of Science and Technology has control over the affairs of the National Intranet itself. Its debilitating effects on the Department Stores will be minimized by a strategic Transvaluation of All Arbeit. The Explicit Intent of this Transvaluation is to have the Prices of goods and services sold on the National Intranet to be higher than those which were sold offline. The sheer convenience of buying from the National Intranet needs to be balanced with having to buy something of similar or comparable Value elsewhere. If there are distinguishable roles for Small Businesses, there should also be similar ones for the National Intranet as well. And for those who are concerned about the fate of eCommerce, the Digital Arbeit and Digital Geld created by the National Intranet alone will compensate for the Transvaluation.  

By having the Department Stores operate under the immediate purview of the Student Government (as opposed to the Council State), the SSE will be able to obtain additional sources of Arbeit and Geld beyond those created by the teachers and faculty of the national educational system. The Actual Arbeit will come from the operation of Department Stores, whereas the Actual Geld stems from the transactional sales. The recommended type of economic organization suitable Department Stores is the NSE, essentially allowing the Student Government to split control of the Department Stores between the Student Body and the actual property owners themselves. Given these arrangements, the Department Stores will be ready for the prospective Economic Planners and Inspectors to apply their classroom instruction of MTEP in Real World applications. Everyone else who works in the Department Store themselves will be compensated with a Fief from the Kontor (Financial Office) and their own Paygrade from the Council State.

For the Students striving to become Economic Planners and Inspectors, there is a neat trick that they might be willing to try out with Department Stores. Consider making lucrative deals with Small Businesses to manufacture exclusive local products that cannot otherwise be made elsewhere in the Socialist Nation. Collaborate with the rest of the Student Body at the Workshops, the ones who build their own electronics and appliances, help them with the patents and striking agreements with manufacturers to produce them en masse. Then have the Department Stores facilitate the sale of items that can be built-to-order according to their specifications and delivered to the customer’s mailing address. Doing so will provide another logistical chain beyond the manufacturers and suppliers that are already in operation, not to mention another source of Actual Arbeit and Actual Geld.

The arrangements themselves are capable of laying the foundations of an appropriate replacement for the shopping mall. That would have to be the eponymous “Third Place,” whose specifications and functions are still being defined as of this Entry. In the meantime, there is another Enterprise that also deserve to be brought under the overview of the Student Government. I am of course referring to the “Supermarkets,” which come with their own set of challenges to the SSE. In the next Entry, we will be covering the background on Supermarkets and how they are meant to operate in the three Modes of Production.   

Categories: Third Place

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