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The sociological meaning of the McDonald’s Essay

Considering whether the contemporary adult entertainment industry is becoming McDonaldized, Katheryn Hausbeck and Barbara Brents touch on a central irony. Even as rationalization of sex for sale expands the market by making erotica more easily available, relatively inexpensive, and safer, it “leads to greater dehumanization, less diversity of desires, and more stratification” (p. 106). This reflects Ritzer’s thesis that McDonald’s has succeeded so brilliantly because it offers consumers, workers and managers a maximum degree of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control through nonhuman technology.

Together, these four dimensions constitute the basic components of a rational system, as first proposed by the German social theorist Max Weber. As with Weber’s “iron cage of rationality,” there is also a negative side to McDonaldization. Ritzer labels this “the irrationality of rationality” (p. 16-18), meaning that a rational system can produce a hail of irrational effects, from environmental damage to dehumanization of the workplace. But with Ritzer his preoccupation with rational systems is entirely focused on economics which to me ignores the cultural and symbolic aspects of contemporary consumerism.

The sociological meaning of the McDonald’s experience is not as uniform across the planet as the author suggests. Instead, local cultures transform McDonaldized systems in unanticipated ways. The author does give one of Weber’s notions that I feel fits the sex industry and that is the cold mechanical systems associated with increasing rationalization are harmful to the production of dreamlike experiences and lead to widespread popular disenchantment.

While the merchants of McDonaldization have invested heavily in the manufacturing and marketing of rationally produced enchantment, such as the sex industry, Ritzer wonders whether these are truly enchantments or more like nightmares. In the book “McDonaldization: The Reader” Ritzer offers three different kinds of sections. First, he applies his analytic framework to a variety of social phenomena, issues and settings from the church to the sex industry, but after a while these analyses take on a somewhat uniform and mechanistic tone.

But with Hausbeck and Brents insight it gives the reader original insight on the contemporary adult entertainment industry. Ritzer’s observations about social trends and their impact on everyday life give the reader something to think about and even apply to their own world. His analysis does not rely on developing theoretical groundwork that, analytically speaking, designates action. Rather it emerges from what might be called a crisis in citizenship, where the governance of the subject is recognized to be, practically and symbolically, appropriated by multinational corporations.

Ritzer understands that everyday life is dominated by consumer culture. Ritzer stresses that McDonaldization does not refer just to the robot like assembly of food. Rather, this process, which is occurring throughout society, is transforming our lives. Shopping malls are controlled environments with approved designs, logos, colors, and opening and closing hours. But not all is evil efficiency does bring reduced prices. But it does come with a cost, a loss of distinctiveness and a quality of life that gets washed away by rationalization. Reference: Ritzer, G. (2006). McDonaldization: The Reader. New York: Sage Publication.

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