views updated

McDonaldization The author of this term, the American sociologist George Ritzer, defines McDonaldization as ‘the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world’ (see The McDonaldization of Society, 1993). The way in which the hamburger chain prepares food for consumption is taken as an exemplar of Max Weber's theory of the rationalization of the modern world: the company uses the methods of scientific management and fordism to guarantee predictability, efficiency, and calculability to customers. The hamburgers are the same the world over, the restaurants are almost identical, so that customers are guaranteed no surprises. Such rational techniques of production and consumption are, according to Ritzer, being increasingly applied to the service sector as a whole. We now have junk-journalism (inoffensive and trivial news served up in palatable portions), and ‘McUniversities’, featuring modularized curricula, delivering degrees in a fast-track pick-and-mix fashion to satisfy all tastes. The diminished quality of these products can only be disguised by extensive advertising which constantly repackages them to look new.

McDonaldization suggests that modern societies are in many respects increasingly standardized, predictable, and uniform. The references to scientific management and fordism are however not entirely appropriate, since the proponents of these earlier strategies for the routinization of production sought to exchange standardized and intensified work for high wages and incentive payments, whereas employment in fast-food restaurants and similar ‘McJobs’ is characteristically low-paid and insecure. This essentially Weberian view of the trajectory of industrialism is also somewhat at odds with, for example, the theory of reflexive modernization and the risk society proposed by Ulrich Beck and others–who paint pictures of an increasingly uncertain and unpredictable world.

About this article


Updated About content Print Article