Term Paper: Social Organizations

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Sociology McDonald's

There are numerous sociological theories for how organizations come together, how they are maintained, how information flows within them, and how they ultimately extend beyond the actions of any single individual within them. Understanding the phenomenon of the organization has become of particular importance in the increasingly globalized world economy; ultimately, this is because the expanding of individual businesses and products has begun to reach the global scale. Along with the emergence of multinational corporations has come the individual ideals, philosophies, ways of conducting business, and underlying values of these corporations. To some extent, corporations like McDonald's have come to represent America itself -- both in terms of capitalistic power and the two's fundamental philosophies. McDonald's, as an organization, is something rather amorphous and, with regard to the individual people working within it, a transitory entity. However, it is also a way of organizing society, the supposed culmination of the "American dream," and it brings along with it an implicit dogma for how wealth and power should be distributed throughout the world. In this way, McDonald's is more than simply a corporation; it is a very real and binding social theory at work in the world today.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the corporate expansion of organizations like McDonald's across the world is the degree of worldwide homogenization that accompanies their expansion, when, at one time, McDonald's was conceived of as a unique approach to business. So, in some ways, the success of McDonald's can be conceived of as a success story in the achievement of the American dream; two brothers started a simple burger store in California in 1945, which eventually made them fabulously wealthy. Yet it is important to point out that the success of McDonald's did not simply stop with the financial success of Dick and Mac McDonald. The organization itself lived-on and quickly subsumed many of the competing individuals and companies that were attempting to sell similar products. This initiated the process of homogenization, which now is apparent national and international levels. One has to only drive through the United States' interstate highways to recognize the emergence of homogenization in the current global economy; you can eat at the same restaurants and buy the same goods at the same stores in Miami, Florida as you can in Billings, Montana.

Essentially, "Homogenization is basically something imposed on people by market forces. It treats people as objects. Even while they use those goods, people can and do assert themselves as subjects, integrating them in their own way of life," (Amaladoss). In other words, many contend that despite the fact that increasingly people all across the world are producing and consuming identical products, the particular cultural forces and uses for those products continue to vary. Additionally, local moral guidelines and values may still be quite different from region to region and from nation to nation. Yet the lesson of the success of McDonald's and the continuing expansion of capitalism around the globe remains that the most economically lucrative approaches to business will tend to work their way into cultural philosophies and gain widespread acceptance.

One of the more revealing critiques of the sociological consequences of the McDonaldization of society comes from Schosser's book Fast Food Nation. He writes, "The sociologist George Ritzer has attacked the fast food industry for celebrating a narrow measure of efficiency over every other human value, calling the triumph of McDonald's 'the irrationality of rationality,'" (Schlosser 9). Yet, this perspective is veiled by the oppressive values of those with substantial power: "Others consider the fast food industry proof of the nation's great economic vitality, a beloved American institution that appeals overseas to millions who admire our way of life," (Schlosser 10). Essentially, Schlosser juxtaposes these competing points-of-view to suggest that the social institution that fast food has become is responsible for its immoral consequences specifically because they are deliberately hidden behind a smiling face and a concept of nationalism rife with inaccuracies. Schlosser contends that the malleable characteristics of human nature lend themselves to the form of control that fast food has taken over their lives.

He writes concerning McDonald's in particular, "The fundamental goal of the 'My McDonald's campaign was to make a customer feel that McDonald's 'cares about me' and 'knows about me,'" (Schlosser 50). Meanwhile, the elemental organization of the company made such understandings of McDonald's deeply fallacious. However, Schlosser argues that fast food corporations have not only been relying upon their ability to portray themselves as something they are not, but that they assert that any negative aspects of national homogenization are inevitable consequences of the free market. Since humans cannot ever completely grasp the causes behind events, most fail to realize, "There is nothing inevitable about the fast food nation that surrounds us -- about its marketing strategies, labor policies, agricultural techniques, about its relentless drive for conformity and cheapness," (Schlosser 260).

Similarly, Weber contends that there is one value that has become almost universal to modern society: the rational pursuit of economic gain. He understands the current form of capitalism in the world as having been born out of specific philosophical points-of-view in Protestant Christianity; the rational pursuit of economic gain, in effect, has become a tenet of the Protestant West. Weber understands this to have occurred because Protestantism has come to value certain activities -- like hard work and material contributions to society -- as being moral behaviors. While this perception of these behaviors was initially just a byproduct of the Protestant worldview, it has come to be the preeminent virtue in capitalistic society. So, it is reasonable to wonder -- from Weber's standpoint -- that if a cobbler hunching over his work daily is a result of his devotion to God at the same time as it is a contribution to society, how should an individual live out their lives who has no tangible skill to donate to society? According to Weber, individuals should be wary of automatically embracing the usual moral frameworks endorsed by society and the government.

Naturally, the most all-encompassing and expansive social control that many sociologists have identified with respect to the United States is the idea of the American dream. C. Wright Mills writes, "It is the proud claim of the higher circles in America that their members are entirely self-made. That is their self-image and their well-publicized myth.... We cannot from upward mobility infer higher merit," (Mills 1959, 348). The American dream essentially signifies the notion that hard and consistent work can eventually provide anyone with what they desire for survival. America is one of the first places in the history of civilization in which the concept that everyone can make something of themselves has been prevalent -- that an individual can start with nothing, and end up with everything. This, however, is merely a theoretical notion; in reality, numerous limitations obstruct acquisition of the American dream from multiple angles. The dream has established a cultural mentality that justifies the status quo, and lends credence to the successes or failures of the individual: it makes the individual the only one responsible for their plight or their dominance. In short, Mills asserts that the American dream in particular is the culmination of the desire of the upper class to maintain their privileged position.

Schlosser identifies this mentality as lending itself to the perpetual reproduction of indistinguishable fast food restraints, their spreading across the nation, and their destruction of local economies. At its heart, the American dream grows out of a specific conception of the free market economy that implies that if a certain restraint is successful it must be innately superior to those which it defeats. However, "While publicly espousing support for the free market, the fast food chains have quietly pursued and greatly benefited from a wide variety of government subsidies. Far from being inevitable, America's fast food industry in its present form is the logical outcome of certain political and economic choices," (Schlosser 8). Even more devious is the manner by which many of these government subsidies are obtained by fast food franchises: "For more than three decades the fast food industry has used the Small Business Administration (SBA) to finance new restraints -- thereby turning a federal agency that was created to help independent, small businesses into one that eliminates them," (Schlosser 101-2). So, the idea that it is possible to be a self-made individual is eliminated in the same way that Mills argues: the belief that people can achieve the American dream prevents people from achieving it.

Of course, this is not the only sociological consequence of the growing success of McDonald's and other enormous multinational corporations. Many of these consequences can be viewed through the lens of sociological conflict theories. The conflict perspective is a particular way to view the nature of human beings and their roles in society: they are seen through the lens of competing goals, and as utilizing their specific levels of power to achieve these goals. With reference to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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