Watson and Mcdonalds Analysis

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According to Watson in China’s Big Mac Attack (2000), fast food restaurants have made significant inroads in Chinese culture; therefore, he asks the question: “Is globalism – and its cultural variant, McDonaldization – the face of the future? ” (p. 360) – an important question as we initiate our study of western influences on the rest of the world. Watson answers his own rhetorical question by

Pattern of organization: Cause and effect (and a hint of problem / solution) First Watson claims to review the literature and the theorists who “argue that transnational corporations like McDonald’s provide the shock troops for a new form of imperialism that is far more successful, and therefore more insidious, than its militaristic antecedents” (p. 360). But instead of academicians, he highlights op-ed writers such as Ronald Steel and Thomas Friedman, who has noted that no countries with McDonald’s have ever fought each other in a war (p. 361).

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To further investigate the secrets of the successful inroads made by fast food industries, Watson next explores the history of McDonald’s in Hong Kong (a British consulate where McDonald’s was “promoted… as an outpost of American culture” (p. 361). Because of changes in family life and traditional family values in China, Watson notes that McDonalds has taken advantage of an emerging focus on the “needs and aspirations” of the modern Chinese family, particularly given the “lavish attention” being given to the single child, the “little emperors and empresses” who are particularly vulnerable to the entertainments of “Uncle McDonald” (p. 63). Admittedly, there are resisters who “grimace”; Watson points out that McDonald’s has become a target for public protests against America, which has increased the “symbolic load” carried by the golden arches (p. 365).

However, McDonald’s has responded by “disciplining” its work force and its customer base, and in so doing, has appealed to an “elite” group emerging within the modernized, consumer-based cultures that are developing in markets around the world. McDonalds has cleverly embedded itself into the local cultures in such a way that “it is increasingly difficult to see where the transnational ends and the local begins” (p. 69). Further analysis: Watch for the war images and metaphors: “shock troops” and “outpost” indicate that Watson believes that international corporations have an imperialist design; they hope to conquer new territories and occupy new markets. Note too that this essay is the intro to a collection of analyses on the inroads of fast foods in the Asian market: see USCan for further info / authors who have contributed to this collection edited and introduced by James Watson. Barber, B. R. (1992).

Jihad vs. McWorld. In Berndt & Muse (Eds. ) Composing a civic life (pp. 370-380). NY: Pearson / Longman. Summary: According to Barber in Jihad vs. McWorld (1992), we face “two possible political futures – both bleak, neither democratic… [either] a Jihad in the name of a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of …social cooperation and civic mutuality, [or] one commercially homogenous global network: one McWorld tied together by technology, ecology, communications, and commerce” (p. 370).

Barber asserts that “the forces of Jihad and the forces of McWorld operate with equal strength in opposite directions” so as to create a “centrifugal whirlwind” that competes with a “centripetal black hole” (pp. 370-371). Neither outcome is desirable. Pattern of organization: Contrast and comparison in support of problem / solution After setting up the opposing forces of McWorld and Jihad, Barber begins with the force with which most of us are most familiar; he first develops the forces of McWorld by exploring “four imperatives” (p. 71). Barber asserts that McWorld has “eroded” national boundaries because “all national markets” have become “vulnerable” to free trade and international banking / currency exchanges that allow and privilege transnational and multinational corporations and entities like the World Bank. On the surface, peace is fostered by open markets. Religious and racial markers become less important when the more important characteristic of being human is seen as being able to shop and consume.

Furthermore, no one country can sustain itself as an “”autarky” anymore; we are all interdependent. Even wealthy countries like the United States depend on resources (like oil) found in other areas of the world (p. 372). The flow of goods is paralleled by the flow of ideas across boundaries because of modern developments in science and technology, particularly in the integration of “computer, television, cable, satellite, laser, fiber-optic, and microchip technologies” that have given us access to information and people all of the time in all places (p. 373).

Like James Watson, Barber acknowledges that the concepts associated with multinationals such as McDonalds, Disney, and Coke are more powerful than military force: “What is the power of the Pentagon compared with Disneyland? Can the Sixth Fleet keep up with CNN? McDonalds in Moscow and Coke in China will do more… than military colonization ever could” (p. 373). Barber warns us, however, that capitalism and democracy “have a relationship, but it is something less than a marriage” (p. 374). Particularly in ecological and environmental matters, capitalism has created greater inequality” because the modern world can not afford to allow developing countries to consume natural resources at the increasingly devastating rate that we see occurring in the current consumer markets. Turning to the forces of Jihad, Barber relies on analysis of political headlines. Barber expects that his readers (of the Atlantic Monthly) will be quite familiar with the litany of political events mentioned in his discussion; for instance, he employs Lebanon metaphorically to examine literally hundreds of “subnational factions in permanent rebellion” (p. 374).

He asserts that Jihad (which literally translates as “struggle”) typically implies religious and parochial zealots who are “angry… proselytizing, deistic, ethnocentric” (and note that this article appeared in 1992, just after the first Gulf War, and just before the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993; note also that Barber makes reference to Saddam Hussein’s “fatal mistake” of having invaded Kuwait when he asserts that “[d]espots who slaughter their own populations are no problem, so long as they leave markets in place and refrain from making wars on their neighbors” (p. 76). Barber draws parallels to the “Eastern European revolutions” (after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989) and to “Havel’s velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia” (p. 377) to assert that democracies in these new nations can be very tentative and can easily be “traded away” by “anxious…new rulers” who seek to create solidarity; “the result has often been anarchy, repression, persecution, and the [return] of very old kinds of despotism” (p. 377).

Ultimately, ironically, McWorld and Jihad share dangerous characteristics: both are “antipolitical” and “antidemocratic” (p. 77). Barber proposes a “Confederal option” to counter both the “indifference” of McWorld and the “antithetical” tendencies of Jihad; although, he admits briefly that McWorld will probably prevail; “Jihad may be a last deep sigh before the eternal yawn of McWorld” (p. 378). Barber acknowledges that “confederations” modeled after the American Articles of Confederation that “stitched together” the American colonies after the American Revolution might be a preferred model to foster “decentralized participatory democracy” (p. 378).

Barber thus urges those who wish to build democracies to “see out indigenous democratic impulses” and to be patient with the slow development of democracies that have to develop locally. Barber suggests that the “tortoise” of slow development is more likely to “win” the race than the “hares” who attempt to impose democracy all at once (p. 379); Barber thus concludes by quoting Rousseau, who wrote, “Freedom… is a food easy to eat but hard to digest” (p. 380). Further analysis: In this particular case, the Internet is probably the better source for additional info on Barber: see http://www. enjaminrbarber. com/ Barber has most recently published another analysis entitled Fear’s empire: war, terrorism, and democracy (2003) in which he examines US foreign relations since 2001. The themes of the newer text are similar to his assertions in his earlier work, however: “You can’t export McWorld and call it democracy” and “You can’t export America and call it freedom” (USCAn).

As we saw in class, we can think of ourselves as global citizens or as global consumers, and depending on our different perspectives, we are either concerned about issues such as education and the sustainability of our environment, or about how much we can buy, easily and cheaply. In many ways, being a global citizen involves completely opposite values from being a global consumer. A global consumer won’t really care much about where a product is made as long as she can buy it at an affordable price.

A global citizen will stop and ask if a child in a sweatshop had to work for ungodly hours in inhumane conditions just so that the product was made available through imports so that it would be available for wealthy people a world away. I find myself questioning how much I can really know about cultures in other parts of the world especially when I read selections like Thiong’o on page 353 in CCL: “I was born into a large peasant family [with a] father, four wives and about twenty-eight children…. and yet I can identify with the same author’s statement: “English became the measure of intelligence and ability” (p. 355), which allows a child to “progress” – and the language of English has become an important western import to the developing world.

I recently read that South Koreans encourage their children to watch western TV so that they will learn more English. When Watson (pp. 359+) questions why Chinese parents would encourage their children to eat in McDonald’s, and quotes Yan, a UCLA anthropologist who “discovered that working class Beijing residents save up to take their children to McDonald’s” (p. 62) as a step of preparation towards Harvard or MIT, this is revealing of the change in attitudes that the Chinese now have towards their children, as “full scale consumers” (p. 364) not unlike American children. The changing of cultural norms because of westerns expectations (impositions? ) is further illustrated in Watson by discussion of “the line” which is first mandated by managers but later self-inforced by “regular customers” (p. 365); ironically, “public civility” is now associated with western norms in Asian cities like Beijing.

The cultural contrasts between fast food establishments in America and Beijing becomes more apparent, however, in Watson’s discussion of how “consumers” in the Far East have turned the fast food restaurants into community centers where they can safely visit, read, or entertain. Watson’s analysis of McDonald’s in China does digress into critique of the “little emperors / empresses” who he predicts will become so very selfish and indulged (after all, one child doted upon by four grandparents is a universal formula for disaster).

Watson crosses over into economic predictions (the dismal science) when he writes that “like their counterparts in [AARP], future retirees in China are likely to be a vociferous, agressive lot who will demand more” consumer goods and benefits (p. 368). As we have already seen in discussions of changing families and values in the U. S. , globally, these changes are taking root in many parts of the world, so that these debates between being a consumer or a citizen take on global implications.

Six billion people consuming at the same rate that Americans now consume would inevitably lead to environmental destruction and disputes would lead to wars over natural resources. As Watson acknowledges, the question is no longer simply “whose culture is it” that dominates; the more important question is what will be the outcome of “adventurism associated with rising affluence” (p. 365) as markets are opened and imports (and the Internet) make shopping a world-wide event?

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