The rationalisation process in modern society
(Adapted from G. Ritzer 1993 pp 1 11)
The notion that modem society was becoming increasingly rationalised increasingly influenced by scientific thought is a recurring theme in the work of Max Weber, in particular. It can be found in his writings on organisations, on social action and on the development of capitalism.
In his book The McDonaldization ofSociety, Ritzer argues that McDonald's has become a symbol of Weber's worst fears for the rationalisation of society. The book is not about McDonald's or the fast food business, but uses McDonald's as an illustration of the rationalisation process, as the following extract shows.
The McDonaldization of Society George Ritzer
'(McDonaldization) is the process by which the principles of the fast food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world,
McDonaldization not only affects the restaurant business, but also education, work, travel, leisure time activities, dieting, politics, the family and virtually every other sector of society.'
The impact and influence of McDonald's can be seen in a variety of ways:
* In 1990 McDonald's total sales were $6.8 billion and its profits in excess of $800 million.
The number of fast food restaurants has grown astronomically. For example, McDonald's, which began franchisig 'm 195 5, opened its 12,000th outlet on March 22, 1991. The leading 100 restaurant chains operate more than 110,000 outlets in the United States alone.
The McDonald's model has not only been adopted by other hamburger fi anchises but also a wide array of other fhst food businesses, micluding those selling fried chicken and various ethnic foods ...
This American institution is making inroads around the world as evidenced by the opening of American fast food restaurants throughout Europe... Already possessing a huge Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, Beijing, China, witnessed the opening of the world's largest McDonald's, with 700 seats, 29 cash registers, and nearly 1,000 employees, in April 1992... In 1991, for the first time, McDonald's opened more restaurants abroad (427) than in the United States (18 8),
Other nations have developed their own variants of this American institution, as is best exemplified by the now large number of fast food croissanteries in Paris.
iOther countries have begun to export their own McDonaldized institutions to the United States. For example, the Body Shop is an ecologically sensitive British cosmetic chain with 620 shops in 39 countries; 66 of those shops are now in the United States.
An ever expanding number of other types of business have adapted the principles of the fast food restaurant to their needs. Said the vice chairman of one of these chains, Toys 'r' Us, 'We want to be thought of as a sort of McDonald's of toys'...
Four principles lie at the heart of the success of the McDonald's' model and, more generally, of the process of McDonaldization.
First, McDonald's offer efficiency. That is the McDonald's system offers us the optimum method for getting from one point to another (e.g. From being hungry to feeling full in a short space of time).
Second, McDonald's offers us food and service that can be easily quantified and calculated... The amount of food and the timing of service are precisely calculated We often feel we are getting a lot of food for a modest amount of money... The success of McDonald's also involves a time calculation McDonaldized institutions offer deliveries in a certain time and service within 5 minutes, for example.
Ray Kroc who established McDonalds was obssessed with quantifying all aspects of hamburger production. As an article in 2003 recalls; “The man was a fanatic. Every pound of ground beef had to make exactly ten burgers, every pound of cheese exactly 32 slices, and every French fry had to be nine-32nds of an inch thick of sufficiently dried...
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