McDonaldization: The Reader Essay

Efficiency, calculability, predictability and control are the four elements that are emphasized by George Ritzer in The McDonaldization of Society (Ritzer, 1993) where he stressed that the American society is dominated by the process and principles of the fast-food restaurants. He took some essentials from Max Weber and came up with his own ideas about the effect of the social structural change in the interaction of people.

It is quite interesting to see how the simplest thing which we barely give much attention to can be attributed to something that simple minds may have a tough time to ponder and analyze. Matthew Robinson gave a rather logical comparison to the American society’s criminal justice system to the fast-food restaurants’ principles in the McDonaldization: The Reader (Ritzer, 2006 ). He elaborately gave a rundown on how the criminal justice system in America has fallen prey to the “McDonaldized” norm of society.

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To most people, the way the criminal justice works is how many Americans would wish it to be: efficient and fast. Look around and you’ll notice the relatively sufficient number of police patrolling the vicinity, ready to stop crime and apprehend the law offenders. Despite the frequency of the crimes in and out of the streets of America, people can still lay down at night, comforted by the fact that criminals can and will be stopped and caught by law enforcement officers. The system also can boast of an effective and efficient method in persecuting and putting criminals on trial. Law breakers are sentenced and put into prison the fastest way possible, making it very convenient for the victims as they would not have to wait for a long period of time before they get the justice they rightfully deserve. Prisons become inhabited by people who disregard the law and serve their time.

This appears to be a sort-of-picture-perfect scenario where people in a community are protected by a very effective and efficient criminal justice system.

However, Robinson raised several good  points in implicating that the American criminal justice have become McDonaldized for the worse. Unfortunately, as American police, courts, and corrections have become McDonaldized, irrational policies have resulted (Robinson, 2002).  The country’s agencies of criminal justice (police, courts, corrections) have set their sights into efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. It has become McDonaldized and somehow become sidetracked. It was too bent at the previously mentioned elements that it was less aimed at justice itself.

The system has grown to be more efficient in implementing justice by speeding up the prosecution process for offenders, which resulted to the increased numbers of plea bargains. The traditional clash of wits by defense lawyers and prosecutors witnessed in court trials are given less regard because of the plea bargains. The goal for efficiency has somehow reduced the system’s ability to serve the justice a person rightfully deserves. There is also this fixation with the quantity (instead of quality) of criminal justice. The more number of people persecuted, sentenced, and put to jail is better even though there is less substantial reduction in crime rates.  Never mind if these offenders are given the most suitable sentence based on their violation or if it factors significantly in the prevention and lowering of committed crimes as long as the population sees how many bad guys are placed in line. To be more effective, the system also has to be “predictable”. To achieve this, police have devised a way to stop crime before it actually happens.  Police also try to accurately predict who is likely to get into trouble with the law before they commit criminal acts.  They focus on particular types of people because of their own personal experience or that of their institution and profession, which suggests that certain people are more likely to violate the law.  This practice, known as police profiling, results in startling disparities in police behavior based on class and race (Robinson,2002). This all ends up to having control over these criminals and keeping the rest of the populace safe. But is it? In exchange for an efficient criminal justice system, are you willing to risk getting shortchanged on justice?




Ritzer, George (1993). The McDonaldization of Society.  CA: Pine Forge Press,

Ritzer, George (Ed.). (2006). McDonaldization: The Reader. CA: Pine Forge Press

Robinson, Matthew B. (2002).  “McDonaldization of American Police, Courts, and Corrections,” In George Ritzer (Ed). The McDonaldization Reader.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

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