June 7, 2010
McDonaldization of Society
In the novel “The McDonaldization of Society,” George Ritzer defines McDonaldization as “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” (Ritzer 1) and explains how this concept not only affects people who eat at fast food restaurants but basically every citizen of the United States. Since the beginning of Ray Kroc’s revolutionary idea to bring the franchise concept to the McDonald brothers’ small hamburger restaurant in 1940, McDonald’s has dominated the fast food industry in sales as well as their conception of how to run their restaurants. The idea of McDonaldization has been applied to many other areas of society besides McDonald’s, such as other restaurants and fast food chains, the healthcare system, tourism, media, and especially higher education and retail stores such as Wal-Mart. By following Max Weber’s theory of rationalization and applying Ritzer’s theory of McDonaldization, the Western society has knowingly (or unknowingly) changed its leisurely pace of business to a world where every aspect of business is designed to run efficiently, predictably, calculably, and completely controlled in order to make the maximum amount of money possible, no matter who is harmed in the process. George Ritzer builds his thesis on the fundamental foundations of Max Weber’s theory of rationalization. Max Weber, a German sociologist, viewed bureaucracy as the most efficient way of running a large-scale business, and McDonald’s is the epitome of this type of company. His theory of rationalization assumes that social interaction and institutions progressively aim for mastery of all actions by calculation and that values, traditions, and emotions are all being replaced by formal, impersonal practices. Ritzer takes Weber’s assumptions and incorporates them into his own hypothesis of McDonaldization, which basically turns rationalization into a theory involving McDonald’s and their business interactions and rules. By building their business on the three principles of large volume, high speed, and low price, Dick and Mac McDonald led the way for Ray Kroc to develop the idea of franchising, where a large firm can sell the distribution of its products and ideas to smaller firms and collect the profit. Kroc eventually went on to become a billionaire due to his ingenious business ethics and revolutionary ideas, and fully achieved the “American dream.” The four main dimensions of McDonaldization, according to George Ritzer, which dominate the aspects of modern business, are efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control by non-human technology. The first dimension is efficiency, or finding the optimum means to a given end or task completion and working towards it as fast as possible. Ultimate efficiency discourages creativity and can result in greater productivity, increased profit, and less discretion for workers. At McDonald’s, they demonstrate this dimension by simplifying every aspect of preparing the food, from preparation to serving to dealing with customers in an assembly-line type process. In mainstream society, efficiency has broadened to many institutions, such as shopping malls, supermarkets, online dating websites, and higher education. Some other examples that Ritzer gives are Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and salad bars, which seem convenient, but actually decrease the level of human interaction between the employees and the customers, and make the customer do the employee’s work to maximize efficiency (McDonaldization.com - What Is It?). The second dimension involves calculability, or carefully calculating and quantifying each aspect of the take-out process. In calculability, all features of products sold and services offered are carefully measured out in order to produce, “a number of positive consequences, the most...
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