Free example essay on The McDonaldization of Society:
So often we hear those words, “I wish I had more time.” We need more time for minding our children, more time for doing our work with the quality that we somehow know can be achieved, and more time for our own creative pursuits. Why do we feel that we need more time? Sociologist George Ritzer has a great, although unsettling, answer to this question. Ritzer developed a theory that he calls “The McDonaldization of Society” (Ritzer). The McDonaldization of Society is “the search for maximum efficiency in increasingly numerous and diverse social settings” (Ritzer). This theory portrays the fast-food industry and its principles of business as an organizational pattern for emerging postmodern society. The fast-food chain, McDonald’s, has enjoyed enormous success, now operating 28,000 restaurants in the United States and around the world. McDonald’s may be found almost everywhere, but in the United States, it is more than just a restaurant: It is a symbol of our way of life. (Macionis)
The organizational principles that underlie McDonald’s are beginning to dominate our entire society. Our cultures and beliefs are becoming “McDonaldized,” an odd way of saying that we model many aspects of life on this restaurant chain. Employees of McDonald’s are told exactly how to do their jobs. They are told how long to cook the food, how thick the hamburgers should be, how to make a milkshake, and how to greet each customer. Each aspect of the job is performed the same way every day. More and more jobs are beginning to use this principal to try to make their business more efficient, and we are also using this system to make everyday life more efficient as well.
Every day our lives are becoming more and more like an assembly line. We are beginning to perform low-status, routine, and demeaning jobs that are considered “dirty work.” Many people join an assembly line based business because the work is not difficult, although the work is honest and necessary in a society. For example, a job at a beef plant would be considered “dirty work” because it consists of slaughtering cattle and being drenched with perspiration and beef blood. The work is dirty, but it is necessary if we are to have beef to eat. People who work on the assembly line in a beef factory have to cope with three major aspects of the job: monotony, danger, and dehumanization. (Thompson)
The monotony of the line is mundane, routine, and continuous. It is not unusual to look up and down the line and see people at various workstations daydreaming or singing to themselves. Their job has become so automatic that they do not have to pay attention to it any longer. Daydreaming is not inconsequential, however. During these periods, items are most likely dropped, jobs improperly performed, and accidents occur. (Thompson)
The danger of working in the beef plant is well known by everyone. Approximately three-fourths of 1,800 people employed at one plant had jobs that demand the use of a knife honed to razor-sharpness. Despite the use of wire-mesh aprons and gloves, serious cuts are a daily occurrence. In addition to the problems of cuts, workers who cut meat continuously sometimes suffer muscle and ligament damage to their fingers and hands. (Thompson)
Dehumanization is perhaps the most devastating aspect of the assembly line. In the beef plant, the assembly line worker becomes part of the assembly line. The assembly line is not a tool used by the worker, but a machine that controls him or her. When workers are seen as extensions of the machines with which they work, their human needs become secondary in importance to the smooth mechanical functioning of the production process. (Thompson)
Our lives have become easier since the invention of the assembly line, but that is not necessarily a positive thing. Technology such as the microwave oven, the internet, and other major household appliances have given us a life of leisure, but at the same time we have become lazy and less family oriented. Because we no longer need to do our shopping in stores and we can eat on the go, we are free to lie around and do nothing. When we actually had to cook our meals at home, we were all able to sit at the dining room table and socialize as a family. I believe the advance in technology could be a reason that we have more deviance in our society. If everyday family socialization were still as prominent as it had been in the past, maybe deviant teens would not have time to be out late at night getting into trouble and family ties could be stronger.
When comparing George Ritzer’s “The McDonaldization of Society” to William E. Thompson’s “Hanging Tongues: A Sociological Encounter with the Assembly Line,” a person will notice that both articles embody the same idea. Each of the authors explains that our society is becoming an assembly line because we are not required to think as often. We have machines that think for us, and therefore we are becoming lazy. There are people who get a job at a fast-food chain or an assembly line plant after high school with intentions of working to pay for college. These people begin to buy expensive luxury items and then they have to stay at that job for a while longer to pay for those items. Before they realize what is happening, they are married with children and they have been at the job for nine years or longer. (Thompson)
The “McDonaldization” of society is a concept that is, unfortunately, a reality. We as a society need to step back and look at ourselves and think hard about what is happening to us. We can continue to be lazy or we can step forward and make the necessary changes to get our lives back under our control. Yes, technology is great, but we need to be more careful of how we apply it to our everyday lives.
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sociologist George Ritzer argues that the relationship between McDonald’s and our society runs even deeper. Beyond its commercial propaganda and symbolism, Ritzer says, McDonald’s is a potent manifestation of the rational processes that define modern society.
Ritzer warns that the spread of such rationalized systems has had irrational consequences, not least of which is the disenchantment of the world, a situation in which rationality takes over, leaving no room for the mysterious, unpredictable qualities that make us human.
Ritzer’s scholarly work has been heavily influenced by German sociologist Max Weber, who feared that bureaucracy would spread until society became a seamless web of rationalized institutions from which there would be no escape. At the time when Weber wrote, in the early twentieth century. totalitarianism was the biggest threat to individual freedom. In the 1980s, Ritzer thought to apply Weber’s theories about rational systems to a very different threat: the proliferation of fast-food chains.
When Ritzer began writing and talking about the dangers of McDonaldization , he struck a nerve: some agreed with him, but many others rushed to defend the pop-culture institution. He went on to write a social critique on the subject, applying sociological theories to the culture in a way that lay readers would understand. The McDonaldization of Society (Pine Forge/Sage Publications) was successful enough that he wrote several follow-ups, including The McDonaldization Thesis and Enchanting a Disenchanted World (both Sage Publications).
Ritzer’s most recent book is Explorations in the Sociology of Consumption: Fast Food, Credit Cards, and Casinos (Sage Ltd.). In addition to writing about sociology for a general audience, he teaches at the University of Maryland, where he is a distinguished professor with numerous academic awards and volumes to his credit.
We met for this interview on a beautiful fall day at Ritzer’s home in Maryland. A breeze blew outside, picking up red and yellow leaves and twirling them across the grass while we sat inside discussing the disenchantment of the world.
Jensen: What is McDonaldization?
Ritzer: It’s the process by which the principles of the fast-food industry — efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control through technology — are being applied to more and more sectors of society in more and more parts of the world.
Predictability: An Egg McMuffin in New York will be the same as an Egg McMuffin in Chicago. Customers can expect no surprises, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Workers, too, behave in predictable ways. Those who interact with customers have actual scripts to follow. Customers end up behaving predictably in return.
Calculability: The emphasis is on quantifiable aspects of the food and service — size of portions, cost, time of delivery — as opposed to quality. Workers are generally judged on how quickly they accomplish specific tasks, and not on the quality of their work.
Control through technology: Because the greatest source of uncertainty, unpredictability, and inefficiency in any rationalized system is the people who work in it or are served by it, technology is used to control both customers and employees. For example, customers are controlled through uncomfortable seats, which lead diners to do what management wants them to do: eat quickly and leave. And, of course, wherever possible, workers are restricted — or replaced — by technology: a worker might overcook the hamburger or put on too much special sauce. It’s much better to get a machine to do it.
These rationalizing principles have been employed widely for many decades, even centuries. Some of them can be traced to early capitalism. Certainly Henry Ford’s assembly line was an effort to produce automobiles in a highly rational way: efficiently, predictably, and using technology to replace human workers.
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