The McDonaldization of Two Social Institutions

As the economy rises and falls, as politics modifications, and as innovation advances, the social institutions of education and household remain essential in personal and social growth. Yet, as crucial as both family and education may be, the two social organizations have actually adopted the principles of the fast food market, thus losing their quality and purpose in a manufactured procedure understood as “McDonaldization” (Ritzer, 2008, p.


McDonaldization is specified as the social process by “which the principles of the lunch counter are concerning dominate more and more sectors of American society, as well as the remainder of the world” (Ritzer, 2008, p. 1). Ritzer’s analysis is based on Max Weber’s theory of justification: George Ritzer has actually taken central elements of the work of Max Weber, expanded and updated them, and produced a crucial analysis of the effect of social structural change on human interaction and identity.

The main theme in Weber’s analysis of contemporary society was the process of Rationalization; a far reaching process whereby traditional modes of thinking were being replaced by an ends/means analysis concerned with performance and formalized social control (Smart, 1999, p.

3). Ritzer (2008) associates the success of the McDonalds franchise, and of McDonaldization as a whole to four “alluring dimensions”, specifically efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control (p. 1). One way our society has tried to make life a little much easier for both producers and customers is by implementing the four basic elements of McDonaldization in everyday life.

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Efficiency, the first factor of McDonaldization, is described as the “…optimum method for getting from one point to another…”(Ritzer, 2008, p.

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9). Education is becoming more efficient in the form of web-based schools. Online schools advertise getting Bachelor degrees in less than two years, although it takes an average of four years to receive that same credential at a traditional university. Education is becoming more efficient in today’s society because speed is what students want. “Students like to have things go by as quickly and as smoothly as possible, using a system that has already been established for them” (Hayes & Wynyard, 2006, p. 131).

The power and progress of our society is based on speed. When services, goods, and even information moves slowly, the rest of the world speeds on by. Speed could be viewed as most important to consumers because they prefer to reach a specific end rapidly, with the least amount of cost or effort. The social institution of family adopts the principle of efficiency, despite not having a traditional consumer or product. Sociologist Bryan Turner (1996) maintains that when family is viewed as a business, “the members of the family are similar to consumers”, and the basic functions that the institution of family provides become the product (p. 57).

Taking care of children is a function provided by the family that has become more efficient with the use of day care centers. Finding an outside source to provide the function of taking care of young children is a quick and easy choice in families. Another factor of McDonaldization is calculability. According to Ritzer (2008), calculability involves an emphasis on things that can be calculated, counted, quantified (142). Calculability tends to put more emphasis on size and measurements than on quality. There is no focus on the quality of what is being produced as long as it meets the size and measurement requirements. The principle of calculability is represented in our education system. Students are herded through schools with no individuality, and no one really pays much attention to what or how they are learning, just that they receive the grades to complete whatever year of school they are in.

Dennis Hayes and Robin Wynyard (2006) declare that the education system is more concerned with numbers than students. “The school system’s main focus is not on the individual student, but on the number of children that to pass standardized tests, and graduate” (p. 201). McDonaldized calculability is also represented in the social institution of family. In today’s society, more families choose to have two incomes, thus bringing in more money to the household, but also creating less time to spend together as a unit. “When both parents hold full-time jobs a reliance on outside sources to meet certain provisions for the children is created” (Smart, 1999, p. 201).

Parents are rating themselves on how much money they contribute to the household, not how they grow together as a family or how well they meet their children’s non-financial needs. Calculability in family could be reducing the quality of goods provided, and improving the quantity of them. This is similar to the calculability process used in fast-food restaurants. The third factor in McDonaldization is predictability. Predictability means that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same service and receive the same product every time, when interacting with the McDonaldized organization (Ritzer 2008). Many students expect their education to be predictable. From “learning the alphabet song in preschool to studying algebra in the high school, students look forward to what’s coming up next” in school (Hayes & Wynyard, 2002, p. 154).

In high schools, students are fed ready-made content. No matter what high school a student attends, in America, the college prep curriculums are similar. Predictability can also be found in college classrooms. Most colleges offer the same types of classes, making transferring from one university to another easier. The testing methods as most colleges are predictable also. Whether it is green or blue, almost every college student will take at least one multiple choice test using a scantron worksheet. Predictability in the institution of family can be found within the roles of the family members.

The roles of mother and father are similar in most families. Parental roles are defined in many families with the mother being the nurturer and comforter, and the father being looked upon as the disciplinarian (Smart, 1999). Predictability gives the consumer a break from having to make difficult decision and the needs of everyone become easily anticipated. The final dimension of McDonaldization is control, which takes place when “everything is pre-packaged, pre-measured, and automatically controlled. The human employee is not required to think, but just follows the instructions, and pushes a button now and then” (Ritzer, 2008, p. 11). Fast-food restaurants are heavily controlled by technology. There is a machine that cooks fries, and even burgers. This deletes the need for human cooks.

Fast food restaurants do not have cooks, because that would mean they were forced to rely on one person. Instead, “there is a simple process that anyone can be trained to do, and following certain steps leads to the same product” (Ritzer, 2008, p. 13). Socially, the institutions of family and education are controlled. The government mandates that care for the young be provided by the young one’s family. The family’s failure to meet the provisions, some of which are set by the government, could cause the government to remove the child from one family, and place the child with a more qualified family. The qualifications for what constitutes a suitable family are set by the government. Gareth Davies (2007) argues that “the government wants to control the raising of children in order to shape and influence the adults they become” (p. 24).

Education is also controlled by the government. In secondary education, teachers must follow a certain curriculum, and classes conform to certain time limits. Teachers don’t have total control over their classrooms. If teachers want to teach material that isn’t in the required text books, teachers must have the lessons approved by the school district. The school systems control what is taught to the students. (Hayes & Wynyard, 2006).

When the theory of McDonaldization is applied to education, like a fast-food restaurant, the quality is sacrificed in lieu of speed and quantity. Education is just a machined designed to churn our future employees in the work force (Turner, 212). The theory of McDonaldization implies that education and family have both been standardized in an attempt to provide the comforts of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. The two social institutions continue to lose their purpose and quality because the more rational and specialized that family and education become, the more they begin to take on the features of the fast-food industry.


Davies, G. (2007). See government grow: Education politics. Lawrence, KS: University Press of

Hayes, D. & Wynyard, R (2006). The mcdonaldization of higher education. Los Angeles:

Information Age Publishing.

Ritzer, G. (2008). The mcdonaldization of society. Los Angeles : Pine Forge Press.
Smart, B. (1999). Resisting mcdonadization. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Turner, B. (1996). The body and society: Explorations in social theory. Los Angeles: Sage

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The McDonaldization of Two Social Institutions. (2017, Mar 30). Retrieved from

The McDonaldization of Two Social Institutions
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