Mcdonaldization of Society Research Proposal

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McDonaldization of Society

Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society. 5th edition. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forage Press,

Long before the popularity of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Morgan Spurlock's documentary Supersize Me, in his seminal 1996 work The McDonaldization of Society sociologist George Ritzer used the infamous fast food giant McDonald's as a paradigm for all that was wrong with American capitalism. Recently republished in an updated 2007 edition, Ritzer's thesis about the standardization of American society is more sweeping, philosophically, than either of Schlosser's or Spurlock's more popular works. Ritzer's main critique of McDonald's is not nutritional, but pertains to its dangerous corporate model, which he says has replaced Weberian bureaucracy as the primary organizational model of modern society. It has permeated every facet of the developed world and changed the way we think and behave as well as the way we make and spent money. McDonald's has dehumanized us, in exchange for inferior-quality food that is a pale imitation of a home-cooked meal. (The fact that it 'makes us fat,' is not only yet another reason to reject it, but an example of how, according to Ritzer's thesis, that what seems rational is really irrational, wasteful, and costs us more as a society in the long run). McDonald's has become a "paradigm" of life that has reverberations in almost every modern global industry and has changed the family, concepts of time and value, and our vision of what is a meaningful existence (Ritzer 1).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Proposal on Mcdonaldization of Society Assignment

George Ritzer has a distinguished academic biography. A graduate of Cornell University, he is a longstanding critic of modern capitalism and globalization. He is regarded as one of the most influential social theorists and cultural critics of the late 20th and early 21st century. He was one of the first authors to systematically explain why the McDonald's corporate model was so pervasively dangerous, and is widely regarded as pioneering in his integration of economic criticism and social theory in a way that was uniquely relevant to modern times and technology. In 2000 he was the recipient the American Sociological Association's Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award ("George Ritzer," Ailun, 2009).

In The McDonaldization of Society Ritzer says that the assembly line of Henry Ford and the careful scientific management have become even more efficient in McDonald's, Disneyworld, 7-11, and other popular corporate models. They rely upon the principles that standardization and the replacement of human thought with technology are the keys to profitability. An employee presses a button with a hamburger rather than knows how to make a hamburger. The hamburger is manufactured according to a diagram. All processes have been tested to ensure that this is the optimal way to assemble a burger. Predictability is the main 'gift' of this model, not quality. This was first introduced by Henry Ford, but technology has allowed this to be taken to an even more minute level -- even the way we eat can be standardized to the degree that a McDonald's hamburger around the world tastes the same, looks the same, and is prepared by the employee in the same fashion. Just as Ford's Model T. was available in every color so long as it was black, McDonald's is similarly inflexible in its corporate model, even when it offers choice in the form of a variety of sauces for the same processed collection of McNuggets in a package.

This seems sublimely rational, writes Ritzer, given that it results in cost and time savings for the consumer. But when Ritzer speaks of rationality, he does not mean rational in the sense of the best or most efficient model. He means that consistent with the principles of Frederick Taylor, tasks are broken down into small components, analyzed to be maximized to reduce time waste, and the workers are carefully controlled so they must obey these dictates from management. In short, the less the employee thinks and innovates, the better. However, workers are often angry and resentful because they are human beings, not automatons. Their individual contribution to the final product is not valued so they give very little back to the company they work for, in terms of their personal investment. Even if they could think of a better way of doing things, the company is not interested.

What is so extraordinary about McDonaldization, however, is that it is mechanizing the customer as well as the employee -- the customer moves through the drive-through, must order according to a prearranged formula -- must line up at Disneyland, or prepare a Slurpee to be rung up according to careful instructions. Salad bars suggest the illusion of choice, but really the consumer is doing the work 'for' the store owner (Ritzer 74). "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" (Ritzer 1). Ritzer says that the paradigm has affected the news industry, such the form of USA Today's "highly simplified news McNuggets," is pervasive in schools where fast foods such as Taco Bell, Domino's Pizza, as well as McDonald's gain a captive customer base by consisting of 50% of the lunchroom food offerings, and is even made manifest in medical clinics where people no longer know their physicians who are merely designed to deal "quickly and efficiently" with disease in an inhuman, Ronald McDoctor-style fashion (Ritzer 79;10-11).

The core features of the McDonald's model are efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. It should be noted, regarding these core principles, that Ritzer means efficiency from the perspective of the producer's point-of-view, not the customer's or the ground-level employee's perspective. In theory, efficiency means "choosing the optimum means to a given end" (Ritzer 30). Ritzer makes jarring juxtapositions to underline his point, pairing ATM cards (where you "pay for the privilege of being an automated bank teller" with self-serve fixing bars at Roy Rogers as part of the same phenomenon (Ritzer 77; 75). However, efficiency does not always lead to value -- Japanese assembly lines, which demand more thought of their workers, are actually more efficient, and Japanese companies sell more cars (Ritzer 31)

Calculability is the "emphasis on the quantitative aspects of products sold (portion size, cost) and service offered (the time it takes to get the product)" (Ritzer 14) This is why supersizing is such an important part of fast food marketing -- the idea that value can be crudely equated with 'largeness.' While McDonald's is most famous for using this technique of supersizing the inexpensive aspects of the meal such as soda and French fries, to create a perception of greater value, perhaps Denny's advertisement for its Extreme breakfast of sausage, bacon, pancakes, hash browns and eggs says it best: "I'm going to eat too much, but I'm never going to pay too much" (Ritzer 82). There is no McDelicious or McPrime, size is king, and McDonald's even lags behind some of its competitors, such as Hardees's, with its half-pound burgers. SUVs are another example of bigness being equated with value. Once again, eating too many calories and driving a gas-guzzling vehicle is not a prescription for happiness for the consumer or profitability for the company -- witness the success of Toyota's Prius, yet the 'size equates with value' concept is universally embraced by McDonaldized organizations.

Yet despite all of the rhetoric about the thrills of 'extreme' bigness and value, numbing predictability is one of the primary values fostered in McDonaldization. The burgers, of course, always taste the same; the experience of going to McDonald's is always the same. Even the hard and uncomfortable chairs designed to encourage customers to eat fast and not to linger are always the same. Sitcoms on television are likewise always the same in terms of the formulaic arcs of their plot. Sequels abound. Package tours offer Americans an Americanized version of Europe, complete with USA Today at the hotels. And to achieve such predictability, perhaps the most frightening aspect of McDonaldization is the degree to which it relies upon the control of the human element in the system. Workers are carefully supervised rather than trained -- they are taught to be cogs in the wheel, not given complete skill sets to performed, and human choice and thought is a potentially dangerous element in such a controlled and planned system. Workers long ago punched a time clock, now they are carefully watched by electronic monitors, and workplace mechanisms are carefully constructed to guard against error -- cups have premeasured servings, automatic timers are preprogrammed to warm food, and employees must obey scripts like saying "have a nice day" rather than interact with customers in a meaningful and human fashion.

This point about worker training (or lack thereof) is one of Ritzer's strongest points, in light of the current global economic crisis. A worker at McDonald's does not know how to cook, only how to assemble. An assembly-line worker at GM does not know how to be a car mechanic. In other words, the company… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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