George Ritzer - The McDonaldization of Society
The title of George Ritzer's book should not mislead the reader. It deals not with one more pamphlet that critics contemporary American culture and consumer society, but is a serious study, which examined in detail the processes that largely determine the current life. The bright cover of the book, with an embodied clown, adjusts to a frivolous feeling. There is a false impression that the book is either a mockery of the American way of life, or the presentation of another conspiracy theory. However, it is not the case. Behind non-serious cover, a very interesting popular science book is hidden. George Ritzer discusses his famous theory of McDonaldization and talks about the way, which makes the world become a global McDonald's.
One of the most expressive and famous symbols of globalization and Americanization is a chain of McDonald's restaurants. Today, nearly in every major city, there are several establishments of this network that are related to each other as photocopied: with the same yellow 'M' logo, a uniform service system, and the standard menu. Instead of the intimate process of eating food, there is rapid and impersonal satisfaction of the need for food that is organized by the principle of conveyor's production. Significant part of the book is devoted to the famous fast food restaurant. Those, who have not visited similar places, have an opportunity to look behind the scenes of McDonald's.
The example of McDonald's is the only partial case, but a broader social phenomenon of McDonaldization which is gradually gaining universal character, is behind it.
The term 'McDonaldization' is proposed by the American sociologist George Ritzer in the book The McDonaldization of Society (1993). The author defines it as 'the process by which principles of fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as of the rest of the world' . McDonaldization is a reinterpretation of rationalization, or the transition from traditional to rational ways of thinking and scientific management.
The popular restaurants of the cheap fast food are a basic, but not the main theme of the book, as McDonald's is a model of a modern system of consumption. Under the process of McDonaldization, Ritzer understands not just the spread of the fast-food chain around the world, but primarily the conversion of the functional principles, on which the restaurant business is based, and the basic principles of modern social life.
In the book The McDonaldization of Society, American sociologist George Ritzer explores the question of how the modern tools and mechanisms of consumption change the social life. Therefore, the author considers the fast food restaurant McDonald's as an example of formal rationality, which is similar to bureaucracy model in the early development of modern society. Moreover, Ritzer describes a chain of fast food restaurants as a catalyst, which provokes important and rapid changes in the modern world, affecting people in both positive and negative ways.
The book is aimed to show a detailed description and analysis of past, present and future of the social phenomenon of McDonaldization by means of which American sociologist analyzes indigenous development trends of the modern world. McDonaldization thesis of modernity, as its modern phase of rationalization, was formulated by Ritzer (1993) in his book and then developed in a number of publications.
Ritzer considers four rational benefits of McDonaldization. These are economic efficiency, quantitative predictability, absence of unexpectedness and the control by non-human means. One of the chapters of the book is devoted to the fact that rational social system inevitably generates irrationality - disqualification workers, transforming them into robots, which operate on a strict program and perform only standard operations. Ritzer does not evaluate the process of McDonaldization as unambiguously positive. In fact, the author examines the reverse side of McDonaldization on the part of rational irrationality. Therefore, he calls such paradoxical irrationality as the fifth factor of McDonaldization. Irrationality does not cancel the victorious spread of McDonaldization, but creates certain social problems and efforts to de-McDonaldization.
There are new ideas in Ritzer's book, which have a significant value for sociology. For example, Ritzer introduces the concept of new means of consumption, which include resources, places and environment of consumption that appeared mainly after World War II, primarily in the U.S. The main feature of the new means of consumption is that they radically change the existing practices of consumption.
The work of Ritzer is a continuation of the theoretical tradition that was initiated by Max Weber. It is an attempt to use WeberВ’s views on the phenomenon of bureaucracy as the most vivid expression of European society rationalization in the modern terms. However, while Weber was considering the principles of organization and operation of a rational bureaucracy as a classic example of rationalization, Ritzer analyzes the process of rationalizing on an example of mass consumption in the modern world.
This gives a reason to characterize Ritzer's theory of McDonaldization as the expansion and addition of Weber's theory of rationalization, primarily due to its extrapolation of the area of consumption. The author argues that today the process of rationalization illustrates the wide spread of fast food restaurants, which represent rational system, in which staff and visitors are forced to seek more effective means to achieve the goal. All these considerations allow Ritzer to describe the growth of formal rationality in the modern world as a process of McDonaldization.
Ritzer returns to the widely debated issue of the 'dark' side of modernity and its globalization process, offering new evidence and arguments 'for' and 'against' the latest trends in the development of modern societies. The author shows the extent, in which McDonaldization have influenced fundamental spheres of the modern life.
The book is useful for everyone, who wants to understand the intricacies of the modern society. It will not only help to survive in the McDonalized world, but also explain why there is so much notorious irrationality.
Ritzer's book is written in a very accessible language. It is shaped like textbook: introduced ideas have been interpreted by many examples; key terms are repeated refrain of almost every second page. The book, The McDonaldization of Society, is considered to be a successful criticism. It is useful and available to students of various disciplines, scientists, and ordinary people due to its informal and readable style. The author presents his views in a reasonable manner. However, the book includes different concepts of psychology, sociology, economics, and politics.
Until the 1980s, the focus of both social scientists and representatives of other social sciences, primarily economists, was the problems of production and distribution, while the problem of consumption has been neglected. The situation began to change in the last decade of the last century. A splash of empirical studies of consumption in modern society affected the condition of modern social theory due to persistently demanding a reflexive understanding. This task was partially resolved by Ritzer in the cycle of books and articles devoted to the problem of the McDonaldization phenomenon.
The social study, proposed by Ritzer, addresses the problem of modernity in its three main aspects: the McDonaldization of society, the link between McDonaldization and globalization, and the development of new means of consumption. George Ritzer's work, which extends and develops the thesis of McDonaldization of modern society, marks an important shift in the problem field of modern social theory and sociology, and finds its clearest expression in the development of a sociological discipline as a sociology of consumption. The highlighting of the research in this area, as well as attempts of its social and theoretical understanding, is a relatively new phenomenon in the contemporary socio-scientific knowledge.
Despite all strengthens and advantages of Ritzer's book, his thesis about McDonaldization as a modern form of rationalization of social life and its application to the research of the processes of globalization was repeatedly subjected to serious and justified criticism. A major weakness of RitzerВ’s work is the lack of attention to the study of the mechanisms, by which adaptation or synthesis of global cultural trends occur. This includes the adaptation of consumer culture of McDonaldized type to the local contexts and characteristics of national cultures and traditions.
However, this book has more advantages than weaknesses. Therefore, it has a significant value for the modern society. It describes the most interesting and important ideas in sociology, which have stood the test of time, and the system of views on major social issues. The author sets clear accents in analyzing the phenomenon of McDonaldization. The book's structure allows perceiving a large amount of material in the long term historical development of the theory of sociology.
The McDonaldization of Society offers the reader new insight into the modern society. Its significance deals with the fact that the book can help to understand the need to resist the process of McDonaldization. Its resisting will allow ameliorating contemporary social problems and humanizing the McDonaldized society. The book influences the reader by forcing him/her to think about the relationship between social pressure and personal life. The book aims not just to inform the reader about a new trend in the society, but also to serve as prevention. It describes the significant truth about the modern life and the means of social pressure on the individuals.
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