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WMST6903 Seminar on the McDonaldization Thesis of George Ritzer, which is concerned with whether or not the spread of rationalization, or what he terms 'McDonaldization' is inexorable. Ritzer examines the spatial and temporal dissemination of rationaliz

Sandra Rivera

on 29 August 2017

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Transcript of McDonaldization

George Ritzer is a Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has gained a solid reputation among the scholar community for his studies about consumption, globalization, metatheory, and classical, modern and postmodern social theory.

Ritzer is also a founding editor, with Don Slater, of the Journal of Consumer Cultur and has edited almost a dozen professional volumes, as well as three encyclopedias (including the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology). He has also authored roughly one hundred scholarly articles in refereed journals.

Though he has published more than 9 books and several journal articles, his most notorious work is the book "The McDonaldization of Society", first published in 1993 and currently on its 5th edition (2008).
George Ritzer
Ritzer's theory of McDonaldization (1983,1993,1996) is derived directly from Max Weber's theory of the rationalization of the Occidental world (1968,[1921]). Weber believed that there was no escaping the 'iron cage of rationalization'. The century that has followed seems to support Weber's theory.
McDonaldization builds on Weber's theory and empirical reality to argue that the fast food restaurant rather than the 'bureaucracy' (Weber) is the paradigm of the process. Fast food restaurants combine the principles of bureaucracy with other examples of rationalization like the assembly line and scientific management.
'Iron cage of rationalization'

"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, 1996).
4. Five basic dimensions
Spatial dimension: Globalisation
Temporal dimension: McDonaldization of birth and death

The McDonaldization of Society (1993)

In the original edition of this ground-breaking book, George Ritzer argues that society is undergoing a process of rationalization. Reconceptualizing Max Weber's argument that the bureaucracy is the ideal type of such a process, Ritzer argues that the fast food restaurant has come to replace the bureaucracy as the model for this process. He identifies the four primary components of this model to be efficiency, predictability, calculability and increased control through the replacement of human with non-human technology. Particular attention is paid to the irrationality of rationality (and therefore of McDonaldization).

The McDonaldization of Society (2008)

In the latest edition of this now-classic work, George Ritzer brings the McDonaldization thesis up-to-date dealing with many new examples and manifestations. The major change in this edition is a new chapter on the “Starbuckization of Society”. This chapter assesses the Starbucks phenomenon and concludes that while it is important, it is largely a variant on McDonaldization. Thus, it is concluded that Starbucks will not replace McDonald’s as the model for the rationalization process in the contemporary world.
The Globalization of Nothing 2 (2007)

A theoretical work that deals with the short and long-term effects of globalization--specifically arguing that societies are increasingly moving away from "something" (unique, indigenous culture) and toward "nothing" (globalized, standardized culture that is centrally controlled and is largely lacking in indigenous components). This book explores processes of grobalization and glocalization in order to explain Ritzer's analysis of the consequences of globalization for local cultures worldwide.
Enchanting a Disenchanted World (2005)

An examination of what are alternately called the “cathedrals” or”means” of consumption in the contemporary world (e.g. shopping malls, Las Vegas Casinos, Disney World). The dilemma facing these structures involves how to enchant themselves (and thereby attract ever more consumers) while remaining highly rationalized.

1: Intro
1. Intro: George Ritzer's background.
2. Rationalization theory (Weber, Marx and the iron cage of rationality)
3. McDonaldization: definition, spatial and temporal growth.
4. Five dimensions of McDonaldization.
5. Class Activity: application of five dimensions to aspects of daily life
6. Other theoretical perspectives
7. Final questions
2. Max Weber

theory of the rationalization
For Weber, the purest form of legal authority was bureaucracy.

"A bureaucracy is capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency, and is in this sense formally the most rational known means of exercising authority over human beings". (Weber in Ritzer, 2004)
3. McDonaldization
Is it conceivable that in the United States, profit is increasingly driving the business of birthing--sometimes at the expense of the best possible outcome for mothers and babies? Should birth be viewed and treated as a natural process or a potential medical emergency? This documentary, produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein, opines that money and fear are changing the way Americans give birth, and not necessarily for the better. Beginning with shocking statistics that the United States has the second-worst newborn death rate in the developed world and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in industrialized countries, the film presents interviews with medical professionals including Dr. Jacques Moritz, OB/GYN from St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital; Dr. Michel Odent, OB/GYN researcher; and Masden Wagner, MD, former Director for Women's and Children's Health at the World Health Organization. Each expert paints a dismal picture of American birthing and emphasizes the frequent overuse of medical procedures in what are otherwise potentially normal deliveries. Stressing the prevalent use of midwives in birthing in other developed nations (70% of births are attended by midwives in Europe and Japan, versus 8% in the U.S.), the documentary then follows Cara Muhlhahn, a certified nurse midwife in New York City, as she attends a variety of home births. The footage is candid and sometimes very graphic, showing various home-delivery methods, including water birth. Interviews with Cara and her clients emphasize their shared philosophy on birthing as a normal life process that, when attended by a caring and well-trained midwife, can be both empowering and exhilarating. Though a midwife is often characterized as a supportive, but medically untrained birth attendee, the film dispels that stereotype, stressing a good midwife's solid training and knowledge of when it's appropriate to seek outside medical intervention. Key in every birth is a commitment to doing what's best for mother and baby, regardless of pre-planned agendas. The filmmaker's lament is that hospitals and doctors often too quickly advocate medical intervention in the interest of saving time and avoiding potential litigation. While unquestionably advocating midwifery over hospital birthing, this documentary presents solid expert opinions, concrete facts and statistics, and anecdotal experiences of both mothers and midwives that are crucial in making an informed decision about the use of midwifery in birthing as well as enlightening as to the current state of birthing in the United States. --Tami Horiuchi
Product Description
Birth is a miracle a rite of passage a natural part of life. But birth is also big business.Compelled to explore the subject after the delivery of her first child actress Ricki Lake recruits filmmaker Abby Epstein to question the way American women have babies.Epstein gains access to several pregnant New York City women as they weigh their options. Some of these women are or will become clients of Cara Muhlhahn a charismatic midwife who between birth events shares both memories and footage of her own birth experience.Footage of women having babies punctuates THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN. Each experience is unique; all are equally beautiful and equally surprising. Giving birth is clearly the most physically challenging event these women have ever gone through but it is also the most emotionally rewarding.Along the way Epstein conducts interviews with a number of obstetricians experts and advocates about the history culture and economics of childbirth. The films fundamental question: should most births be viewed as a natural life process or should every delivery be treated as a potential medical emergency?As Epstein uncovers some surprising answers her own pregnancy adds a very personal dimension to THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN a must-see movie for anyone even thinkingSystem Requirements:Running Time: 85 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES/SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Rating: UNRATED UPC: 794043120787 Manufacturer No: 1000038370
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

by Dylan Thomas
Ritzer, George
“The McDonaldization Thesis: Is expansion inevitable?”
International Sociology 11 (1996), 291-308.
Andra Keay &
Sandra Rivera
"The effort to discover the best posible means to whatever end is desired.” (Ritzer, 1996)

“Emphasis on quantity … to the detriment of quality” (Ritzer, 1996)

“Employees are expected to perform their work in a predictable manner and … customers are expected to respond with similarly predictable behaviour” (Ritzer, 1996)

The increasing mechanisation of process, it extends to both the employees and the consumers.

Irrationality of rationality

“irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems … they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them” (Ritzer on Paterson, 2006)
McDonaldization of death

According to Ritzer, the McDonaldization of death begins before a person dies, its signs can be found in the efforts by the medical system to keep a person alive as long as possible, and we can find here again the use of non-human technologies to maximise the quantity of time that a person will spend on a hospital rather than the quality of this time.

When it comes to what happens after death, Ritzer points out the evolution suffered by the funeral services business in the US. There has been a marked transformation of the funeral industry, where several family-owned funeral homes were acquired by large corporate chains
Six Feet Under
TV show from HBO spanned between 2001 and 2005.
The show revolved around members of the Fisher family, who run a funeral home in Los Angeles.
During the first season, Kroener, a large corporate chain of funeral services tries either to buy the family business or make them close.
McDonalds has developed in one nation (US) and disseminates US (western) culture and processes, also homogenizing products and services and exemplifies modern industry rather than post modern phenomena.

By 95, half of McDonald's profits came from overseas, an increasing trend. And alongside the growth of similar chains of many different products, a more subtle shift is occurring in many institutions and systems.
Class exercise
Filling in the blanks: DEATH "How has McDonaldization colonised death?"

Efficiency _____________________
Calculability _____________________
Predictability _____________________
Control _____________________
Irrationality _____________________
Example of extension of 5 dimensions: BIRTH

Efficiency Caesarians, Operating theatres (handle any surgery), Institutional setting
Calculability Ovulation charts, due dates, ultrasound measurements
Predictability Research into stages of labour, size of foetus, maternal indicators, chekups
Control Stirrups, Inductions, Monitors, Measurements, Blood Tests, drugs, Registration
Irrationality Surrounded by strangers staring at your most intimate parts/process
Is saving life dehumanizing or irrational? Why do we resist McDonaldization?
Is McDonaldization inexorable?
What could other theorists offer instead?
How does this shape our role as consumers?

Bohman, James, Rehg, William, "Jürgen Habermas", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2009/entries/habermas/>.

Goode, L. Habermas and the Public Sphere. (2005) London: Pluto Press

Kalberg, S. “Max Weber’s Types of Rationality: Cornerstones for the Analysis of Rationalization Processes in History”, American Journal of Sociology (1980) 85:1145-79

Lemke, T.“The Birth of Bio-Politics – Michel Foucault’s Lecture at the College de France on Neo Liberal Governmentality” in: Economy & Society, Vol. 30, No. 2, (2001) 190-207

Paterson, M. “McDisneyfications” Consumption and everyday life (2006) 58-86 New York: Routledge

Ritzer, George. “The McDonaldization Thesis: Is expansion inevitable?” International Sociology 11 (1996), 291-308.

Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. (2003) Boston: McGraw Hill

Sanders, G. Late capital: negotiating a new American way of death. (2008) Unpublished Dissertation, Vanderbilt University, Nashville Tennessee.

Weber, M. Economy and Society. (1968 [1921])Totowa, NJ: Bedminster Press

Weinstein, D. & Weinstein, M. A. “McDonaldization enframed”. In B. Smart (ed) Resisting McDonaldization (1999) 57-69. London: Sage
Ulrich Beck
Pierre Bourdieu
Anthony Giddens
Michel Foucault
Jurgen Habermas

Foucault's Theory of
Governmentality and Biopower
Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action
Full transcript