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Presented by Amanda Dominguez
Inspired by The McDonaldization of Society 5 by George Ritzer

† BASIC CONCEPTS
Dimensions of McDonaldization
  1. Efficiency (the optimum method for getting from one point to another),
  2. Calculability (the quantitative aspects of products sold [sizes & cost] and services offered [time taken]),
  3. Predictability (the assurance that products and services will be the same over time and in all locales),
  4. Control (exerted over the people who enter their world; i.e. lines, limited menus, few options, etc), and
  5. Irrationality of Rationality (unintended consequences of rationalization.
*Note: These dimensions do not occur strictly in fast food restaurants. Most aspects of our daily lives have been McDonaldized by applying the first four concepts, followed by the unintentional application of the fifth.

IKEA as an example of the dimensions at work:
  1. Efficiency – one-stop furniture shopping;
  2. Calculability – very low prices;
  3. Predictability – large parking lots, children’s play area, masses of furniture, etc;
  4. Control – maze-like structure forces consumers to traverse the entire store; and
  5. Irrationality of Rationality – millions of poor quality products.


Focusing on the Irrationalities as a Matrix of Sustainability Problems

I. Global Homogenization

The unintentional creation of a monoculture/global homogenization is a sustainability problem because it leads to one way of thinking, one common culture, and one common experience. Globalization provides predictability and comfort for tourists (fast food, hotels, etc) in foreign countries; however, it also forces a different way of life on foreigners. This is increasingly the case in many countries, where McDonald's is considered the global icon of America.

Over 60% of McDonald’s are located outside the US (about 26,000 worldwide; 12,000 in US). Just 30 years ago, it was only 25%. In 2006, 233 McDonald’s opened around the world, only 47 in the US (meaning over 80% of their total expansion was outside the US). There are McDonald’s in over 118 countries, which provides McDonald’s with over 50% of its revenue. Serve nearly 47 million customers each day; employing more than 1.5 million people (includes other restaurants that are not McDonald’s but owned by the corporation). McDonald's has become the most recognized brand in the world (along with Coca-Cola).5

The problem with “the world … growing increasingly similar”† (p.168) is that the diverse ways of thinking are exterminated and we end up stuck in a continuous cycle of like-minded leaders and followers, where change would be unattainable. Ritzer describes McDonaldization as “the globalization of nothing”† (p. 170) in that it is a means of spreading worthless things, things that do not add value, take away from, or even replace local cultures.

II. Changing Cultural Values

Our increasingly McDonaldized society teaches values to our culture and corrupts our youth. An example of this is the notion of more/bigger is better, when in fact this is not always the case, as well as the idea that there is no need for family dinners or healthy food (that they can be substituted for convenience).

McDonald’s, and companies of the like, are corrupting our youth by reeling them in while they are young. For instance, children’s toys include McDonald’s logos making them more comfortable with the brand, trusting it as they grow older. The younger generations grow up knowing nothing but McDonald’s and find comfort in it into adulthood. This has the potential to lead to health issues (i.e. obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc) which leads to increased need for health care, dependency on fast-food, lack of nutritional knowledge, and the eternal inheritance of this culture by even younger generations, among others. Further, the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser states that McDonald’s is the largest private operator of playgrounds in the U.S.4 Not only is this the case simply because McDonald’s uses playgrounds as a way to lure children into the restaurant, families are beginning to depend on these institutions for play areas (either because there are no government-provided playgrounds or it is more convenient to eat while the children play).

The new television series on ABC, Food Revolution1, displays the horrid eating habits that have become ingrained in children through the expansion of McDonaldized institutions and the lack of awareness of its detrimental effects. It epitomizes the notion that, as a nation, we value convenience over in most of our daily decisions.

III. Need for Convenience

Society has become fast-paced (what with efficiency spreading into every aspect of our lives) and with this ‘need for speed’ we have developed a perceived need for comfort and convenience. We value predictability which in turn causes the never-ending expansion of franchises and the elimination of local diners. Consumers expect fast service at fast-food restaurants, even when waiting in extremely long lines in the drive-thru lane (which wastes tons of gas every day, but that is a whole different issue in and of itself).

Essentially our nation has become lazy, and thanks to globalization, this laziness is quickly spreading worldwide. The invention of “ready in minutes” meals, shortcuts for diets, and food delivery have serious effects on our society that expand beyond our health. It skews our perception so much that our emphasis on speed sacrifices quality, and we don’t seem to mind it at all. IKEA is a prime example of this; it is known for its shoddy furniture and yet consumers continuously purchase these products because they are cheap and easily replaceable. We used to value products that would last a lifetime; McDonaldization has made it so that we are willing to pay a low price several times over instead of searching for quality.

IV. Deskilled Work Force

Employees of McDonaldized institutions are considered deskilled workers in that they are strictly scripted and trained to do a single task continuously, over and over, with little room for creative and/or independent thinking. These jobs limit the abilities of workers, keeping them stuck in the same types of jobs without chance for advancement opportunities.

According to Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (2001), nearly one in eight workers in the U.S. have at some time been employed by McDonald's. McDonald’s employees are trained and expected to spend under a minute with each customer; this includes greeting the customer, taking the order, accepting payment, properly preparing the order, and delivering the order. Although McDonald’s is not the only institution with similar standards for employees, Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary has recently added the term “McJob” to its pages, defining it as "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement."4 This addition to the dictionary caused outrage by McJob employers; however, Merriam-Webster held that it is a legitimate conveyance of the term and means no offense to employees.

Overall, McJobs make it difficult for society to move forward when workers cannot function to their best ability at work. Ritzer notes, “if the world was less McDonaldized, people would be better able to live up to their human potential,” and this, in turn, would allow for societal development and the continuum of creative thought.

V. False Advertising

McDonaldized advertising leads to false impressions. For instance, McDonald’s advertising portrays certain McDonald’s food choices as ‘healthy’ and does not let on to anything from behind the scenes. McDonald’s portrays itself as a family-oriented institution that strives to provide choices to consumers and maintains a ‘happy-go-lucky’ persona, avoiding many aspects of the institution that contribute to this matrix of sustainability problems.

Fast Food Nation also states that McDonald's is the single largest purchaser of beef, pork, potatoes, and apples, which according to the documentary Food, Inc.2 usually means there is exploitation of resources, workers, farmers, and land involved. Even above that, their food provides no actual nutrition, which logically leads to obesity and other health problems (adding to the issue of increasing health care) and even the redesign of the food pyramid.

Most importantly, however, McDonaldized advertising does an excellent job of hiding their profit motive ideals. The profit motive is essentially the idea that profit should drive all of their processes and costs should be cut anywhere possible (including limiting menus, giving false impressions to consumers, paying low wages to workers, making customers provide their own customer service, and much more). None of this is apparent in the portrayal of McDonaldized institutions, which only adds to the growing trust and comfort consumers find in them.

VI. Substitution of Labor

The mechanization of laboring tasks and the substitution of workers for machines (or simply treating workers like machines) is a sustainability problem in that it adds to the issue of our dependence on oil, which is peaking worldwide, as well as the disregard for the safety/welfare of the workforce.

As noted in the documentary, Blind Spot3, we have changed our way of living so that machines do the majority of our work, compared to years ago when manual/human labor was widespread. We have gotten accustomed to the inexpensive use of energy from the environment, but this cannot persist as rates of oil extraction climb and the estimated oil levels decline. We are not looking far enough ahead to make the sustainable changes necessary to live ‘comfortably’ in the future.

VII. Pollution

Probably the most obvious of the irrationalities is the extreme pollution caused by McDonaldized institutions. For beginners, (as noted previously) extreme use of resources leads to extreme pollution. For instance, extra packaging is required of the products most McDonaldized institutions produce, which results in lots of waste of the part of the consumer as well. Another aspect of pollution that is fairly obvious is the air pollution from cars idling in the drive-thru, despite its claimed ‘efficiency.’

Solutions

A solution to counter the effects of McDonaldization is best done by focusing on the three factors that increase its prevalence:
  1. Material interests (economic reasons);
  2. The culture of the US, which values McDonaldization as an end in itself;
  3. The degree to which it has attuned to important changes taking place within society (i.e. single parent homes, automobile presence, increase in affluence/mass media, etc)

To counter McDonaldization, some solutions (although partial) include:
  • Slowing down and re-evaluating values (like the importance of family, friends, and other social relationships; focusing less on consumption),
  • Encourage dining at home or at local diners more often,
  • Exert control over advertising (keeping them truthful, including news reports),
  • Create a distinction in globalization: Globalize products, not a culture (can be done by further adapting products to the regions they are being sold in),
  • Ensure fair wages and working conditions for workers, and
  • Shift the focus off of profit (since all irrationalities stem from the need to be efficient and optimize profit).


Sources
† Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society 5. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge,
2008. Print.
1. "Jamie's Food Revolution USA - Campaign for Healthy Eating." JaimeOliver.com.ABC, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2010. <http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution>.
2. Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. Film.
3. Blind Spot. Dir. Adolfo Doring. 2008. Film.
4. “McDonald's.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 March 2010. From http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=McDonald%27s&oldid=351548149
5. Ale. "I'm Lovin It - McDensity." Ya Veremos. N.p., 5 June 2008. Web. 21 Mar.
2010. <http://www.yaveremos.com/2008/06/im-lovin-it.html>.

Collage of Images - Sources:
(counter-clockwise beginning with 'globalization' image)
1. Muttoo, Ian. McDonald's, Hong Kong. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 2 Sept. 2006. Web. 21
Mar. 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/imuttoo/232257639/>.
2. Webel, Steve. Thai McDonalds. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 27 May 2006. Web. 21 Mar.
2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/webel/154592447/>.
3. Brandon, Steve. Toy cars at Merivale McDonald's. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 2 Aug.
2006. Web. 21 Mar. 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/steve-brandon/
205216488/>.
4. Segre, Alex. AFS-081292. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 18 July 2009. Web. 21 Mar. 2010.
<http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexsegre/3732129526/>.
5. Lunchbreath. Proud Sponsor. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 18 Feb. 2010. Web. 21 Mar.
2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunchbreath/4367651450/>.
6. Holley, Paxton. Original McDonald's Shake Machine. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 20
Feb. 2008. Web. 21 Mar. 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/paxtonholley/
2280947842/>.
7. Dakowicz, Maciej. bench outside McDonald's - Cardiff. N.d. Flickr. N.p., 11 June
2009. Web. 21 Mar. 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/maciejdakowicz/
3616544718/>.

[posted April 6, 2010]