Introduction to Sociology The McDonaldization of Society George Ritzer, in his book The McDonaldization of Society, has given a good understanding of the kind of world we live in. He describes the concept of McDonaldization, which is the process in which the principles that form the basis of McDonalds are greatly influencing the rest of society. McDonalds runs its business on the following key elements: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control by non-human technologies.
A fifth element, which Ritzer perceives as a disadvantage of McDonaldization, is the irrationality of rationality. This is the idea that a society which is based entirely on rationality is not a normal human society because humans are not created to be rational. According to Ritzer, “rational systems serve to deny human reason; rational systems are often unreasonable. ”(pg. 13) Ritzer, in his book, applies all these principles of McDonaldization to other spheres of life besides fast-food, such as the literary industry, the culinary industry, the fashion industry, and other services.
Even though he tries, and I think, succeeds, in trying to remain as objective as possible, Ritzer establishes himself as being apprehensive of, or against, the widespread influence of McDonaldization. He discusses the ideas in the history of mankind which have lead to McDonaldization, such as the principles of the Holocaust and the assembly line production. Then, Ritzer proceeds to describe each of the five key elements of McDonaldization in detail, using the McDonalds model or other examples. Eventually, the reader gets a complete picture of McDonaldization and how it affects their world.
Ritzer also discusses how McDonaldization might affect our future. It has such a deep impact on our life that it is influencing not only our physical and material life, but also the very miracles of creation and destruction. McDonaldization has affected each and every sphere of our being. Finally, Ritzer discusses some steps which have been taken in the past, or which can be taken in the future, to combat McDonaldization, on either a societal or individual level. I agree with the general stance of the author, and that is that I am extremely suspicious of McDonaldization and whether it is really a harm to society rather than a blessing.
I disagree with three of the five key elements of McDonaldization, those being predictability, calculability, and control by non-human technologies. Firstly, by making the daily interactions of life more and more predictable, life loses some of its meaning. People are meant to confront all different types of situations and interactions to get a feel for the possibilities of life. For example, in the case of home-cooked meals, if people were not to occasionally receive a meal which was bad tasting, how would they be able to appreciate a really delicious meal.
The whole idea of predictability goes against our ‘human-ness’, because we were all created to perform differently. Secondly, calculability leads to a belief that quantity is more important than quality. According to Ritzer, “In terms of processes, the emphasis is on speed(usually high), whereas for end results the focus is on the number of products served(usually large). ”(pg. 59) In my opinion, the reason the majority of Americans are overweight is because of this “bigger is better” theory. The quality of other things is also affected in this way, such as of education, healthcare, and general productivity in a business.
Thirdly, I think the increasing use of non-human technology to replace the use of the human mind, at certain extremes, is contradictory to the meaning of life. The human mind was created to solve problems and make inventions, but not to find a substitute for itself. Also, I believe that life should be kept as simple as possible. Though some might say that certain machines and computers simplify our life by making particular tasks easier, I think they actually complicate our lives even more. Especially when they begin to rule our everyday activities and we become too dependent on them.
We forget how to carry out those tasks ourselves. Lastly, I think that the aim of each of these elements is to make life easier for people. But, in my opinion, this easy life only leads to a more materialistic life. McDonaldization seems to stress on individualism, a kind which leads to isolation and loneliness. In my experience, American society is one of the loneliest because of this emphasis on individualism. In certain other developing countries, where there are less McDonaldized institutions, one will notice that there is a greater stress on family relationships and values, which fosters strong bonds between people.
But the few McDonaldized institutions that are present, are appreciated a great deal. Therefore, I don’t think that McDonaldized institutions are all harmful; I simply believe that there can be too much of a good thing. I was born in the midst of this McDonaldizing world. Thus, I have had many personal experiences with McDonaldization. My experience with taking multiple choice exams has actually been a good one. Owing to the fact that I have been blessed with a very good memory and the other skills required to take multiple choice exams, I almost always do very well on such occasions.
However, I don’t believe that I am any smarter than my fellow student who did not get as high a grade as I because he couldn’t remember certain facts being tested on, for instance, an English Writing exam. Multiple choice exams don’t assess well for such subjects. I don’t think multiple choice exams are a good indication of a students learning, just as the Scholastic Aptitude Test(SAT) isn’t either. Many a student cries over a poor SAT score and because of this, is denied a good education from the better colleges of the world. But then again, how is one to decide on what a good college is?
This was certainly a question which came up when I was applying to college. It is true, I didn’t go to the number 4 ranked college in the U. S. or the number 21 ranked college, but instead I went to a college ranked 50-something. And yet I still believe I am getting just as good an education as any other student in this country. The emphasis for me is on the quality of my studying, not the numbers I get on my exams. That is why I also do not believe that parents should foster this McDonaldized principle in their children. I’ve known too many people that studied hard for an exam, didn’t get an A grade, and were spurned by their parents.
That, in my eyes, is not a healthy sign. Reading Ritzer’s book was very insightful and taught me a lot about an issue which I could never really name until now-McDonaldization. I think it’s important for everyone to understand this concept for it’s benefits as well as its disadvantages. They could then use this knowledge to combat the ills of an increasingly McDonaldized world. I believe that, in essence, one of the main purposes of life is to be able to strike a balance between extremes. Therefore, McDonaldization should not be allowed to go to extremes.