Mcdonaldization of Society
The Mcdonaldization of Society: Interpretation and Analysis of the Book
George Ritzers book, The McDonaldization of Society, explains 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. This concept, at its core seeking to organize and increase productivity and profit, can now be linked to innumerable ripples blanketing our society with a range of effects, which are as controversial as they are widespread. The convenience offered by McDonaldization seems to have surreptitiously tiptoed into the homes of families, creating a new dimension for family bureaucracies in todays society. Divorce rates are up, child support is low, and an increasing number of children are growing up in broken families. With the ever-quickening revolution from hard work to the easiest and fastest way to get things accomplished, how long before children do not even know their parents, and instead are sent away at birth to begin training? It is important for people to realize that, while restaurants and other major distributors can afford to take shortcuts for increased profit and efficiency, relationships with other people rarely withstand such a luxury.
In the early 1900s, families would recognize one another across the state, often addressing others as, Bensons of This Town, or the Eatons from That Town. With the invention of the automobile and the growing railroad lines, it was easier for travel and relocation. By the 1950s, people were most familiar with the people living in their vicinity, colleagues, or classmates. Still, the dilution of personal relationships has become most recognizable in the last twenty years. My parents dont even know their next-door neighbors, and I barely see my father. An increasing number of children today live with one working parent, leaving little time to form a strong relationship.
Also in the past, parents having problems would try to work it out, or stay together regardless, just for the sake of their offspring. In my Neo-family, the parents are divorced. This in itself changed the dynamics of my family drastically. In addition, they both remarried. I never get along with Ticky, my fathers wife. And although I have lived with my stepfather for over six years, I have never had a real conversation with him. Similar to the way McDonaldization serves to improve conditions of the owners rather than the consumers, by making the decision to remarry, and by not having their new spouses participate actively in my life, my parents only reinforced the idea that they had made a decision more for themselves then for my brother and me. They no longer had a constant, predictable, and united role in our lives. By keeping their lives separate from us and each other, rifts were formed in the relationships within my family that to this day remain unreconciled.
This way of living was dehumanizing as well: switching houses every other weekend, visiting my father and to have him adopt Tickys daughter and leave us to do whatever we wanted while they all went shopping for her new car. And little can be said for Jonathan, my mothers husband, who is either too frightened to be a real part of the family or just does not care.
As for the future of the familial bureaucracy, the outlook seems bleak. Many divorced parents are not paying child support, which supports the idea that many people are losing touch with the true meaning of family and the word responsibility. People are moving away from their families, putting the elderly in nursing homes instead of living with them and caring for them at home with other family members. And with the Internet maturing at the rate of a fruit fly, people will be able to attain many things needed for daily life such as banking, investing; shopping for clothes, food, even education will be available in the living room of every home, and probably within the next twenty years. Relationships with other people may very well become as close to obsolete as possible without eliminating procreation. Computerized systems will handle the remainder of physical labor needed to supply the populations with the basics of life and more. Of course, anything is possible, making the absolute opposite equally likely.
At the heart of all of this is the realization that, although some aspects of a McDonaldized society seem somewhat appealing speed, convenience, and low cost the long fingers of this concept are touching parts of our lives that no one anticipated, and not always for the better. Would my life had been better had my parents stayed together, Ill never know. However, giving up and going for the easy-out has become all too frequent and acceptable. McDonaldization may be regarded as being worth its consequences for some people. Yet, when it comes down to Mcdonaldizing personal relationships by shrugging off responsibilities and acting on a self-serving basis, it will never be worth enough to those of us put on the back burner.
The Four Principles of McDonaldization Process and How Their Work
McDonaldization: A Process of Four Principles
On February 12, I visited the McDonald’s in Boston’s Chinatown. The following week, on February 18, I visited the Starbucks in Boston’s City Place food court. These two fast food shops may differ in appearances, but I observed many similarities in the way each followed the McDonaldization process, including four specific principles. While McDonaldization can be beneficial, this fast food system appears to come with just as many disadvantages to society as advantages.
In his book, The McDonaldization of Society, sociologist George Ritzer outlines the four principles of McDonaldization. The first of these principles is efficiency, defined as “the optimum method for getting from one point to another” (Ritzer 13). On my visit to each, McDonald’s and Starbucks both had efficient methods to ensure their customers ordered and received their food and/or drink in as little time as possible. I found McDonald’s to be much quicker in getting customers their order, considering most of the food is prepared ahead of time. I ordered a milkshake at McDonald’s, which was dispensed from a machine and handed to me, all in under a minute. Starbucks also employs this pre-made practice. All food products, such as sandwiches and bagels, are made earlier in the day and then warmed up when ordered. On the other hand, Starbucks’ baristas make their speciality drinks (or anything that is not plain coffee) manually, right after the customer orders. At slower times of the day, like 1PM when I visited, Starbucks’ efficiency is rarely a problem. However, at busier times of the day (8AM or noon), I’ve noticed customers tightly piled up next to the barista’s counter, waiting for their food or drink. This is especially a problem in Starbucks shops where standing room is scare, including the City Place location. I noticed another difference in efficiency when the McDonald’s employee who handed me my drink asked how many creams I wanted (I found this odd since I ordered a milkshake). Oppositely, Starbucks has a milk and sugar counter in order to save the time and effort of the barista’s.
The next principle Ritzer evaluates is calculability, defined as an emphasis on “the quantitative aspects of products sold (portion, size, cost) and services offered (the times it takes to get the product)” (Ritzer 14). I noticed McDonald’s and Starbucks approach calculability through different versions of the same method. Both stores have methods of making their customers believe they are getting more for their money. While McDonald’s has the Dollar Menu, Starbucks’ drink sizes are named so that every drink seems as if it is a large. The smallest size at Starbucks is referred to a “tall”, with the two larger sizes being “grande” and “venti.” Still, McDonald’s does provide customers with more for their money compared to Starbucks. Many of the drinks on the Starbucks menu start at a little over four dollars. Ritzer writes that Starbuck’s high prices play into its effort to establish itself as sophisticated. He states, “This is a high-end, ‘classy’ show, not the cheap and garish one on view at the McDonald’s down the road” (Ritzer 175). The speed at which one can receive their food or drink at both stores also plays into calculability. Ordering a meal from McDonald’s is much quicker than preparing one at home. Ordering a drink from Starbucks is debatably less complicated than making one at home, though it is convenient to those who may want a cup of coffee “on-the-go.”
The next principle of McDonaldization is predictability, which Ritzer defines as “the assurance that products and services will be the same over time and in all locales” (Ritzer 14). Both McDonald’s and Starbucks have the same interiors concepts in each location. In McDonald’s, this is usually white-tiled floors and stiff chairs. Starbucks’ cafes often follow a relaxed and rustic theme, with employees dressed in black under their green aprons. Starbucks also features several merchandised items in each store, such as mugs or instant coffee packets. The employees at McDonald’s and Starbucks both follow similar scripts when taking orders, like “Would you like a drink with your food?” or “Would you like whipped cream?” Predictability can also be seen in the quality of McDonald’s and Starbucks products throughout each location. A major selling point of both stores is the fact that the products will taste the same, despite the location. A McDonald’s cheeseburger from New York will taste the same as a McDonald’s cheeseburger from Boston. This is assuring to customers who are simply looking to eat and not looking to try something new. However, I often find that Starbucks is very unpredictable in the availability of its food items, as opposed to McDonald’s. On this particular visit, to Starbucks I ordered a grilled cheese, along with my drink. The employee taking my order informed me that the store was out of sandwiches for the day. I find this sometimes happens at later hours of the day, but this was the first time I experienced this so early in the afternoon. Another aspect of both stores’ predictability are their season-exclusive items. On my visit to McDonald’s, I ordered a Shamrock Shake. This mint-flavored milkshake is available only from mid-February to mid-March and did not become available in every United States store until 2012. Likewise, Starbucks features several seasonal drinks, the most famous of which being the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte. This drink is available during Autumn and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2013. Fans of both seasonal drinks eagerly await their return every year, knowing exactly what to expect in the month of either September or February.
The final principle of McDonaldization is control, which is “exerted over the people who enter the world” of either McDonald’s or Starbucks (Ritzer 15). Employees are trained to do tasks and expected to perform them in the same manner each time. Ritzer comments that McDonald’s works to control customers according to its own philosophy of “eat quickly and leave.” He states, “Lines, limited menu, few options, and uncomfortable seats all lead diners to do what management wishes them to do” (Ritzer 15). On my trip to McDonald’s, I felt myself wanting to finish my drink and leave as soon as possible. On the contrary, I brought work with me on my trip to Starbucks with the intention of staying after I received my order. Control is also present through the non-human technologies McDonald’s and Starbucks both possess. Starbucks’ baristas are taught to use the espresso machines, as McDonald’s employees are taught to use the milkshake or ice cream machines. This saves time and money, but leads to these products being given a negative “manufactured” reputation.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to the McDonaldization process. One of the most important advantages is the instant gratification for a low price. Specific advantages include McDonald’s efforts to hire and promote minorities and Starbucks’ promotion of coffee culture in countries that did not originally have one. The disadvantages of this system are usually ignored by society. While it is no secret that the majority of the McDonald’s menu is extremely high in calories, sodium, and fat, customers settle for it because of its convenience in both speed and price. Similarly, many Starbucks drinks, including the sugary Frappucinos which appeal to younger customers, are comparatively high in calories and sugar. Starbucks’ reputation as “high-end” may distract some customers from realizing their drink is just as unhealthy as a meal from McDonald’s. In keeping with efficiency and control, both stores are employing new technological ways of operating (i.e. paying and ordering through iPhone apps), which lessen the need for the manual labor of a paid employee. There is a uniformity in both McDonald’s and Starbucks, which is dampening to employees and customers. We enter, place our typical order, wait for it to be handed to us, and leave, just as we always do. We do this without questioning our consumption or spending habits. McDonald’s and Starbucks may not seem to have much in common from the outside, but their insides eat, sleep, and breathe the process of McDonaldization.
McDonaldization of Society: Critical Reading and Interpretation of the Article
The McDonaldization of society by George Ritzer is an article that seeks to expose a humongous problem among people today. Ritzer explains the need that people have shown to reach their objectives as quickly and easily as possible. This may not sound bad, what’s wrong with people reaching their goals quickly? The problem being that the goals of people have greatly changed in the last few centuries. For many survival is not a struggle, but a God-given right that is bestowed upon the fortunate members of society. For these people the goal that may once have been to find food, as to not starve, now it’s about finding food that takes less than a few minutes to prepare.
But this article really was not just a berating of McDonalds. It is a commentary on society. People have now become so lazy that they will do anything to make their lives easier. Cashiers don’t even calculate money anymore. There’s a machine for that. There are machines that limit the amount of liquid exerted from a soda fountain. There are many technologies that are replacing human action. As Ritzer explains, this destroys variety, and unique qualities in many tasks. The self-satisfaction of creating a useful tool for oneself is disappearing.
Humanity is disappearing. To me, that’s what this article is about. Not a McDonaldization of society, but a dehumanizing of it. What I find amusing is that Ritzer refers to this need for quick solutions as rationalization. While it sounds natural that finding the quickest and most effective solution is rational, these methods that people use in society are far from rational. We’re becoming zombies. Soon we will live in a world full of technology built by humans, and we won’t know how to operate it. We might not even know how it got there in the first place. With the trend that seems to be sweeping across America, even the rest of the world in many places, it’s not hard to believe that we may be pawns in a mechanical society. We already are starting to work as a mechanical unit.