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Mary Jo Hannu
The McDonaldization of Society 1996
by George Ritzer (Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland)
I. Purpose of writing the book
1. Ritzer considers book a theoretically based work in social criticism. Offering insights to the society we are creating.
2. Written for general public and academics.
3. Provide evidence that McDonaldization is "sweeping through society."
4. "It is written as a warning that the seductions and attractions of McDonaldization should not blind us to its many dangers."
5. "Points the reader in direction that can help make the 'iron cage of McDonaldization' a morehuman setting in which to live."
6. To bring Weber's theory of rationalization up-to-date with contemporary life.
II. Max Weber (1864 - 1920)
1. Weber's Theory of Rationalization
a. Weber believed the modern world was becoming so rational, calculable, and predictable that anything that happened by chance, passion, or creativity is gone.
2. He thought bureaucracy was the ultimate form of rationalization.
a. The modern world (technology, economy, politics) as we know it, was made possible through bureaucracy
b. Four aspects: Efficiency, Calculability, Predictability, and Control.
c. Bureaucratization led to depersonalization and was an inescapable fate. Its methods spread to all aspects of life.
3. Consequences were the Irrationality of Rationality.
a. The more rational a society is the more irrational it can become.
b. Weber believed the consequences are depersonalization and loss of ability to make ones' own choices. People will live impersonal lives in what Weber calls an "iron cage."
III. Ritzer's McDonaldization
1. Definition: "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."
2. "McDonaldization affects not only the restaurant business, but also, education, work, healthcare, travel, leisure, dieting, politics, the family and virtually every other aspect of life."
3. As bureaucracy is to rationalization - the fast-food industry is to McDonaldization
4. McDonaldization's precursors: Ex. scientific management, the assembly line, mass-produced housing, and shopping centers.
5. Ritzer uses McDonalds as the prime example because:
a. Huge success worldwide. Pervasiveness.
b. McDonalds business model has been adopted by many other businesses. Not only restaurants.
c. Other countries have copied ideas.
d. High rate of retail sales from a small percentage of franchise stores.
e. McDonalds considered "Americana" or "sacred institution."
IV. "Why has the McDonalds business model proven so irresistible?"
Weber's four concepts of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control.
1. Efficiency: Focus on optimum method to get from one point to another.
a. Streamlining process.
b. Simplify product.c. Putting customers to work.
Emphasis on quantitative aspects of products sold and service offered.
a. Quantity rather than quality.
b. Patients as dollar signs.
c. Measuring your work patterns.
Assumes there is comfort in knowing there will be no surprises.
a. Replicate setting.
b. Replicate product.
c. Predictable employee behavior.
Usually through the "substitution of non-human technology for human technology."
a. Eat and get out.
b. Controlling process of education.
c. Do as I say - not as I do.
IV. Advantages of McDonaldization
1. Although Ritzer acknowledges the benefits from McDonaldization, he agrees with Weber that there are detrimental effects.
a. Greater availability of goods and services to a bigger portion of the population.
b. People can get what they want almost instantly.
c. Uniform quality.
d. People can do things at times they have never been able to do before. Ex. Banking in the middle of the night.
V. McDonaldization and the Irrationality of Rationality
Like Weber, Ritzer thinks that a rational business will have irrationalities that deny genuine humanity.
1. Dehumanization. Most negative impact.
a. Health and environment hazards.
b. Dehumanization of customers and employees.
c. Negative effect on human relations.
a. Long lines.
b. Higher costs. ATM machines
c. They force people to do unpaid work.
IV. The Iron Cage of McDonaldization
1. Ritzer's iron cage means that "as McDonaldization comes to dominate ever more sectors of society, it will become ever less possible to 'escape' it." People lose the control over their lives.
2. Factors that drive McDonaldization
a. Economics (capitalist society).
"Profit-making enterprises pursue McDonaldization because it leads to lower costs and
b. Culture of United States values McDonaldization.
Public values efficiency and predictability, and people who are loyal to McDonalds overlook disadvantages (note: enormous amounts of money put into advertising to convince public of its good).
c. Changing society.
McDonaldization fits in well with fast paced, mobile, modern, dual career, single-parent, etc.
life-style. Technical advances. Also, increased ways to influence by mass media.
IV. Frontiers of McDonaldization
Ritzer believes the process of McDonaldization has not only affected most aspects of daily life but has gone to the extreme of affecting our very birth and death.
1. Birth has become McDonaldized in many ways.
Prenatal gender identification, "designer" pregnancies, fertility drugs, medical technology, and hospital births have dehumanized the birthing process.
2. Death has become McDonaldized in many ways.
Medical technology, life support systems, the funeral home business have dehumanized the death process.
III. Guide for Living in a McDonaldized society.
1. Ritzer says people cope with McDonaldization by their attitude.
a. Velvet cage people admit the McDonaldization is present but find it comforting.
b. Rubber cage people dislike many aspects of McDonaldization but find others appealing.
b c. Iron cage people, like Weber and Ritzer, who are "deeply offended by the process and see few,
if any, ways out."
3. People can do things to change McDonaldized institutions.
a. McDonaldized institutions can be modified (slightly) through pressure from public.
b. Hard to change the dehumanizing work conditions.
b c. Some businesses have really tried to be different, but find it difficult.
3. What can an individual do to "subvert" McDonaldization?
a. Individualize your home.
b. Avoid daily routines.
c. Do as many things as you can do for yourself.
d. Do business with a locally owned business rather than national chains.
e. Use cash rather than a credit card.
f. Mail all your junk mail back to the post office.
g. Get to know the counter people at the McDonalds you go to.
h. Watch as little TV as possible.
i. Support local farmers.
10. Not participating in the McDonaldized world can be difficult
but can help people to "express genuinely human reason" and creativity.
11. Conclusion. Ritzer believes that the future will bring more
McDonaldization no matter what we do.
Ritzer ends his book with these words:
"Faced with Max Weber's iron cage and image of a future dominated by the polar night of icy darkness and hardness, I hope that if nothing else, you consider the words of the poet Dylan Thomas: "Do not go gentle into that good night Rage, rage against the dying of the light."