The book of George Ritzer, has taken certain elements from Weber’s work and presented a critical analysis of the impact that is felt by the social structural change on human interaction and identity. According to the book, Ritzer claims that the fast food business and its structure is responsible for the present organizational force and this process or rationalization has disseminated into the everyday lives of the individuals and their interaction levels. As has been defined by Ritzer himself: …Mcdonaldalization,….
is the process y which the principles of the fast food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the world. (ritzer,1993:1) If one was to perceive the growth of this franchise, the fact that it has thousands of outlets worldwide and is located in the suburbs, military bases, malls. And even the highway exchanges present the extent to which our lives have been taken over by this process. It is not only the fast food chains which represent this issue but even the other chains such as those connected to Toys, Bookstores, newspapers and child care amongst several others.
There have been instances-increasing in number-that the newer areas of business expertise are making use of this process. Everything is handled and managed in a way to control the perceptions and mindset of people. There have been five dominant themes which were outlined by Ritzer in his book which center on the idea of efficiency, calculability, predictability, increased control, and the replacement of human by non-human technology. The first one deals with the notion of efficiency and it is basically translated as the use of means in order to reach a goal or aim with the least amount of time and effort.
The idea of efficiency can be seen by the way the people in different business or industries perceive it to be as it can differ for different business structures. This is viewed as a benefit and advantage to the customer in all respects and forms. The different ways that this is achieved can be seen through the use of the ATM machine, voice mail, and drive-up window services salad bars etc which all cater to reducing the time required for that business purpose. The customer might not be aware of this but in this process; he actually conducts various sorts of services and pays for them as well which were available to him before on demand.
It might seem as a noteworthy service but in reality it is just a way of cutting time and costs for the firm and increasing the cost for the customer. It requires learning the usage of these newer services, and in order to apply and make use of them the customer has to bear the extra costs for these value- added services. Another theme which comes across is the idea and notion of calculability. In order to define this notion, the words of Ritzer would be put to effective use: “ this involves an emphasis on things that can be calculated, counted , quantified.
Quantification refers to a tendency to emphasize quantity rather than quality. This leads to a sense that quality is equal to certain, usually (but not always) large quantities of things”. (Ritzer, 1994:142). There are several examples which can be used to explain the idea of making use of quantity- some of the fast food offerings such as the Big Mac, Big Whopper, Wnedy’s Biggie meals etc which all point to the fact that quality has been effectively replaced by quantity. Another pertinent area which comes to the notice of the reader is the fact that time-saving plays an integral role in this process as well.
There are newer and improved recipes which allow for the food to be made in much shorter time and the microwave food products cater to the need of such time conservative individuals. Another theme which is presented effectively is predictability. It is in reference to the attempt that is played by the attempts that are made in order to structure our environment and hence, surprise cannot have any effect on our sensible nature. Those who act sensibly and use their logic will always have an upper hand as they would be well prepared in advance for any problems and issues that might come their way.
The customer of this sort would expect the same taste, quality and requirements that he got from one area product to be applied elsewhere. The example of the entertainment industry can be used in this regard as the audience is made to water movies upon movies either regarding the same theme, sequels or even series regarding the same issue. Therefore, a sense of predictability has become a prominent feature of all our lives and we operate by it. Whether it is going to the office from 9 to 5, going for some sort of entertainment on the weekends-we do follow a course which more or less is decided and is hence, predictable.
The human race is being doctrine by the idea of predictability and any deviation has become a source of risk. The other theme which was taken on by the author of this book was the idea of control through the substitution of nonhuman for human technology. In Ritzer’s own words: “these two elements are closely linked. Specifically, replacement of human by nonhuman often oriented towards greater control. The great source of uncertainty and unpredictability in a rationalizing system are people –either the people who work within those systems or the people who are served by them.
”(Ritzer 1994:148) For the human per see, everything is planned and done for him before hand and he operates as a mere obedient automation machine which operates as ordered by machine with no thinking on his behalf being carried out. If one was to look at the different areas of one’s life, it could be seen that from the kitchen to the living room, all of us make effective use of technology in one way or another. The machines do the tasks for us and us being treated as mere handlers of them. As per the claim of Ritzer:
“the next step in this development is to have the customer do the scanning” Ritzer (1994: 150) This comment clearly indicates the fact that the humans have over time allowed the machines to overtake them in this case of managing and carrying out the work. The computer and machines have been accepted as the measurement criteria by which we assess ourselves and our skills. What is being seen as a development is that the human skills and capabilities are being rapidly eroded in the fact of development and the humans are merely being used in order to facilitate the processes of the machinery.
The last theme which was analyzed and discussed by the book would be that of the irrationality of rationality. This theme mocks the rationality of these systems which are a source of the pride of the owners of these product companies. This book represents a view that if analyzed properly it could be seen that under these rational systems or so called-there lies an edge of irrationality. In Ritzer’s own words: “ most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny their basic humanity, the human resource, of the people who work within are served by them.
(Ritzer, 1994:154) All of us have been victims at different points at time when we have had to wait quite long for the food, groceries which make us question the rationality of the fact that though more is being paid for the efficient -ness and effectiveness of these systems, yet at the end those very systems are being undermined by the essence of rationality. We make use of the products and services which are aimed at providing us with better services and results only to provide us with less than desired results.
The dependency increases of all on these very systems and in effect, it becomes a mere trap as the humans rely heavily on these for their different purposes and aims. However, this same vicious cycle creates an even worse effect as the environment which is sued for the basic purposes of breathing is polluted and affected in a number of detrimental ways. In Ritzer’s book: “the communal meal is our primary ritual for encouraging the family to gather together every day. If it is lost to us, we shall have to invent new ways to be a family.
It is worth considering whether the shared joy that food can provide is worth giving up. (Visser, 1989:42, in Ritzer, 1994:156). The easy availability of readymade meals etc have made things much more easier for the present generation and hence, a number of important elements which were present initial have seen to be fading. The world is becoming heavily dependent on manmade objects and services which in effect is making it lose its own individuality. The above part of the paper effectively discussed the elements of the book and the following paper would critically analyze these themes and ideas.
The author of this book has presented some quite simple views and understanding of the various themes. The author presents an understanding that the human values are an unnecessary area which does not require exploration and what actually requires attention are those systems which are endangering the humans’ ability to think. Through his analysis, Ritzer is able to apply his principles to a wide range of phenomenon which includes the economic and social aspects as well. What comes across is a failure in order to explore the cultural dimensions and though his analysis is a social analysis-it yet fails in a number of ways.
what is clearly required is a cultural perspective and in order to add to the normative stance of Ritzer, certain important areas such as the strategies of resistance and critical perspectives need to be focused on as well. One of the weaknesses which are inherent in this book is the fact that by representing McDonald as the paradigm of McDonaldization the actual progress is negated and undermined in a lot of ways. There comes across an excessive dependence on the Weber theory and that what can be used to overcome the problems is the multiperspectivist approach.
The rationale of the book clearly comes as a method of presenting the sociological theory of Weber to rationalize the theory with a number of empirical data usages. He adds to the analysis of Weber which was further carried out by this book as he tries to restructure a vast array of areas which extend from the general social dynamics and the larger structure of the social organizational structure. What comes across as a strong concept throughout the book is the concept of consumption and the area of production which plays an important area in the McDonaldization process is actually ignored.
The concept of profit is touched upon is certain cases ( Ritzer 1996:44,62F)although it could have been better handled if the author had aimed it at through the rationalization process of production and consumption. Being part of a rationalization process, McDonaldization is a phenomenon through which the world markets are being rationalized and reorganized in order to maximize the capital accumulation. The cultural dimension and aspect of the McDonaldization process which the corporate word makes effective use of in order to create the family values and attract the attention of the viewers and readers.
Therefore, the company and franchise McDonald’s is not merely selling services and products but in fact is selling certain cultural values and inculcating them as well. The process of purchase etc is merely a small part of the actual value chain. Therefore, McDonaldization is in fact part of a social phenomenon which has its own cultural values and codes which have been largely ignored by the book and its author. The US is actually a race which consists of the values such as family etc which are catered to by these franchises as they promote these national values and validate them to the entire nation.
Therefore, the author undermines the different aspects and methods of McDonald’s which is an ideological and cultural phenomenon as well as being an economic one. The cultural dimension is largely overlooked and ignored by the author in the pursuit of portraying the economic process. The theory of homogenization is also presented in a highly generalized manner and the standard of the process of McDonaldization is portrayed throughout the book and what is ignored is the fact is the variety and diversity of the consumer practices in the different areas and regions of the world.
Each different region and area has its product offerings which differ to a large extent and that has been largely ignored by the author of this book. The social rationalization and the different phenomena which is experienced by the various races and creeds are not presented at all which presents a major flaw and weakness of this book and the author effectively. The subjective process of the process are ignored in the pursuit of the theory of rationalization and the presentation of Ritzer’s ideas are clearly too objective and fail to highlight the various subjective and cultural values of McDonaldization.
Ritzer argues that the concept of Modernization (Ritzer, 1994:148f) is what McDonaldization is perceived as but one has to analyze that whether it truly is that or is the reality actually different. There are aspects of this process which are clearly interlinked with the traditional values and the claims of the author of the McDonaldization process being the cause of the modernists is undermining this important area and aspect of the McDonaldization process.
While the rationalization process of production and consumption are areas and aspect of the McDonaldization process, they clearly do not overtake the entire meaning and existence of the entire process. In fact, the reality of the process is the fact that the McDonaldization process does not only relate to Weber’s theory of rationalization and Marx’s theory of commodification but there are other postmodern elements which are connected to it.
Ritzer’s attempts to distance the analysis of post modernity from the McDonaldization process are in connection to his failure to bring out the connections between the cultural dimension and the McDonaldization process. An important area of the postmodern theory is the cultural aspect which has been linked with the transactional culture that is enacted upon this McDonaldization process and created even further.
The connection that is created between this process on a global and local scale might have been analyzed by this book but what has been ignored is the social functions, different meanings and experiences that are generated by the McDonald’s in a number of regions. This paper has not only represented the themes but also represented the flaws and weaknesses inherent in this book and what could have been done in order to improve the understanding of the process. References The McDonaldization of Society by George Ritzer (ISBN 0-7619-8812-2)
McDonaldization: The Reader by George Ritzer (ISBN 0-7619-8767-3) The McDonaldization Thesis: Explorations and Extensions by George Ritzer (ISBN 0-7619-5540-2) McDonaldization of America’s Police, Courts, and Corrections by Matthew B. Robinson McCitizens by Bryan Turner Resisting McDonaldization, ed. Barry Smart Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia by James L. Watson Sociology of Consumption: Fast Food, Credit Cards and Casinos, ed. George Ritzer The McDonaldization of Higher Education, ed. Dennis Hayes & Robert Wynyard
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