McDonaldization is a term used by sociologist George Ritzer in his book ‘The McDonaldization of Society’ (1993). He explains it occurs when a culture possesses the characteristics of a fast-food restaurant.

McDonaldization is a reconceptualization of rationalization (moving from an ad-hoc system into one that is based on a set of published rules). Where German political economist Max Weber used the model of the bureaucracy to represent the direction of this change in society, Ritzer sees the fast-food restaurant as having become a more representative contemporary paradigm.

Ritzer highlighted four primary components of McDonaldization: Efficiency, Calculability, Predictability, and Control. Efficiency refers to the optimal method for accomplishing a task. In the example of McDonald’s customers, it is the fastest way to get from being hungry to being full. Efficiency in McDonaldization means that every aspect of the organization is geared toward the minimization of time. Calculability demands that objective be quantifiable (e.g., sales) rather than subjective (e.g., taste). McDonaldization developed the notion that quantity equals quality, and that a large amount of product delivered to the customer in a short amount of time is the same as a high quality product. This allows people to quantify how much they’re getting versus how much they’re paying. Organizations want consumers to believe that they are getting a large amount of product for not a lot of money. Workers in these organizations are judged by how fast they are instead of the quality of work they do.

‘Predictability’ means that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same service and receive the same product every time when interacting with the McDonaldized organization. This also applies to the workers in those organizations. Their tasks are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable. Control refers to the replacement of humans by non-human technologies. With these four principles of the fast food industry, a strategy which is rational within a narrow scope can lead to outcomes that are harmful or irrational. As these processes spread to other parts of society, modern society’s new social and cultural characteristics are created. For example, as McDonald’s enters a country and consumer patterns are unified, cultural hybridization and homogenization occurs.

Ritzer also outlines ‘Irrationality of Rationality’ as a fifth aspect of McDonaldization: ‘Most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them.’ He also states that, ‘Despite the advantages it offers, bureaucracy suffers from the irrationality of rationality. Like a fast-food restaurant, a bureaucracy can be a dehumanizing place in which to work and by which to be served.’ In short; ‘settings in which people cannot always behave as human beings.’ He further states that beyond dehumanization, other irrationalities emerge (red tape, over quantification).

2 Comments to “McDonaldization”

  1. Thanks for using one of my paintings (“Mc Che Guevara”) in your blog.
    Good choose!

    Eusebio Guerra

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