More Evidence Needed to Support George Ritzer's McDonaldization Thesis

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More Evidence Needed to Support George Ritzer's McDonaldization Thesis

The McDonaldization Thesis presupposes some familiarity with Ritzer's earlier work, The McDonaldization of Society (1993), in which he defines 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" (1). These principles include efficiency, predictability, calculability (or an emphasis on quantification), and control (especially via non-human technologies). Taken together, they constitute the formal (functional or instrumental) rationality that undergirds McDonaldization. In the present work, Ritzer continues to sound the alarm by depicting McDonaldization as "a largely one-way process in which a series of American innovations are being aggressively exported to much of the rest of the world" (8).

Although the author acknowledges that the McDonaldization thesis is rooted in Weber's reflections on rationality, specifically the notion of the "iron cage of rationality," he prefers the "simplicity" of Mannheim's thinking on the subject. The latter, for example, locates the fundamental irrationality of highly rationalized systems, such as McDonaldized ones, in threats to the ability to think; whereas, the former emphasizes threats to human values, an area the author deems unnecessarily messy for the purposes of his theoretical analysis. The author further justifies this position by noting the cognitive demands of the present post-industrial system in which human beings live. Indeed, it is the dehumanization resulting from the simultaneous increase in functional rationality and decrease in substantive rationality, which rationalized systems demand and perpetuate, that animates the author.

The author introduces the concept of the "new means of consumption" to illustrate the ways in which not only business, but cultural, practices are threatened by McDonaldization. Defined as "those things owned by capitalists and rendered by them as necessary to customers in order for them to consume" (91), examples of the new means of consumption include fast-food restaurants, credit cards, mega-malls, home shopping television networks, and cybermalls. The critical point for the author is that each changes the ways individuals consume. For example, the exportation of fast-food restaurants and American eating habits, with their emphasis on food as something to be consumed as quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively as possible, alters the way people eat and, thereby, "poses a profound threat to the entire cultural complex of many societies" (8).

There is a distinct normative dimension to the concept of the new means of consumption, which is evident in the author's insistence that they "constrain" individuals "to buy more than they need" and "to spend more than they should" (119).
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