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What Does “McDonaldization” Mean?

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    McDonaldization is a term used by Sociologist George Ritzer. He explains it as the method in which a culture takes on the characteristics of a fast-food facility. Ritzer analyses the particular ways in which the success of the American hamburger chain has impacted upon not only economic patterns, but in particular on a multitude of facets of social life in general; Basing his analysis on Max Weber’s theory of rationalization. McDonaldization is seen as moving from traditional to rational modes of thought. It has many effects on society. A few effects are categorized by efficiency, calculability, predictability and control.

    According to Ritzer these are the four primary components of McDonaldization. The First is Efficiency. Efficiency is thrust upon a person, so instead of choosing your own methods of efficiency, you are forced to accept the efficiency of the surrounding institutions. Efficiency is convenient for the business but makes more work for the consumer. A few examples are ATM’S, buffet’s, self serve stations and automatic car washes. Although many people may argue that this is convenient rather that inconvenient it reduces the level of human interaction.

    Consumers are forced to deal with computers rather that a person and this is training to be a better worker for the McDonaldization society. Each and every process of the business is organized to ensure that everything happens at the right time and the right place to ensure that the maximum gratification for the customer and the maximum profit for the company are ensured. Second is Calculability. Calculability is an emphasis on the quantitative aspects of products sold and service offered. People think “more is better. If there is a lot of a product than it must be good. Consumers think they get more for their money so super size it. McDonald’s gives a strong emphasis on the quantity of their products. The customer should get the feeling that he gets much for what he has bought, and that he gets it in less time than in a normal restaurant. In this context less time is more. Third is Predictability. Predictability, structures our live in that way, that surprises and differences are eliminated. In our rational society people have to know what to expect when they do something.

    This predictability is given in the system of McDonald’s. Where ever you go to a McDonald`s restaurant, you know that every where the food will taste the same, the system of ordering and eating is known, and every restaurant looks more or less the same. Workers, don’t have to worry about thinking for themselves, they will have time to concentrate on other things, while they go through the motions of performing their jobs. Predictability is not just about food but also about movies. Most movies made today are sequels.

    The characters just have to be made up once and the work for the writer becomes easier. Movie goers love sequels because they are already familiar with the characters and they don’t have to think too much because they already know what to expect. Television is infamous for its predictability. It has been said that there are only 40 different sitcom situations, and have been since the 1960’s. These situations are used over and over again, from one sitcom to the next, without fail. Occasionally a new plot will be introduced, but next week it is back to the same old situations.

    The final aspect of McDonaldization is control. The control in a rational System is a very important aspect, to make sure that the product is predictable, calculable and that it is produced in an efficient way. To make sure that no faults are made, work has to be made so easy by machines, so that humans cannot make any faults. For every single part of a product there has to be a norm, for example the size of the meat in a hamburger, the period of time it has to sizzle on one side, so that the meat will taste the same every time.

    To make sure (to control) that the worker cannot make a fault, a machine gives a signal when the meet has to be turned. There is also a kind of control about the costumer. McDonald’s knows how long it normally takes, until a customer ordered his food and eaten it, and the customer knows about McDonald’s system, about ordering an so on This tendency, by far not unique to McDonald’s, enable the company to far better control the uniformity of production and to at least partly eliminate the hassles of having to deal with human beings.

    Even the implied threat of replacing human with other technology enables further control over employees. But it is not only the employees that need to be controlled, but also the customers. This is accomplished by a range of subtle measures, among which not the least is the restriction of menus to a limited number of items, the utilization of customers to do work themselves, such as carrying food to the tables and litter away from it, and of course the availability of hard chairs which certainly does not encourage customers to linger.

    The affects of McDonaldization can be seen everywhere today and it is reaching to extremes. There are several stores, most likely seen in suburban areas, like Wal-Mart where you can shop for just about anything from food to clothes, develop your film and eye-lenses in under an hour, pump your gas, access an ATM, eat at McDonalds and grab some Starbucks. Furthermore it can all be done without every interacting with a store employee using bankcards and automated checkout.

    Heightened security surveillance compensates for obvious concerns with minimized employees attending several checkout machines, both enforcing the dimension of control. The practice of co-branding and placing franchises within a franchise, McDonalds in Wal-Mart is creating a convenience factor that is unbeatable. Although many people like the effects McDonaldization has on society by being able to pull up to a window and get food within minutes and check yourself out at grocery stores to eliminate conversation with the employee.

    Who doesn’t? I don’t think people actually realize the negative outlook on this. If we can have computer’s cook burgers and fries for us, know when to stop filling up a drink, access our bank accounts and wash our cars; how is this going to effect the employees that hold those positions now? Once technology advances employees are going to be eliminated. The poverty level is going to increase and many people will not be able to get a job unless you have a college degree and have to actually use your mind to perform certain tasks.

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