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Ritzer’s Theory of McDonaldization


Globalization is an undertaking to make markets, politics and the likes to be same throughout the world. It is in as sense a process of denationalization of markets, politics and legal systems, i.e., the rise of the so-called global economy. They have utilized the most effective way to influence people and that is through attempting to alter their cultural orientation. Since culture is the way of life and set of values of a person, everything that the person does will be based on his/her cultural background. As such, cultural re-orientation is necessary in order for the imperialist to introduce new products to the target country therefore creating a new market. While it is common to see cultural values such as ‘modernity’ as a product of the early family environment (Klineberg, 1973), it is often far from clear how such values may be transmitted, as broad notions of ‘socialisation’ are rarely defined.


The first person who had coined the popular phrase “McDonaldization” is George Ritzer in his “McDonaldization of Society” which describes the development of modernization i.e. connected with the fast food industry. According to Ritzer (1996), the fast food restaurant is the modern paradigm of the rationalization system (Alfino, Caputo, Wynyard, 1998).  McDonaldization is defined as the process of adapting the standards of the fast food chain which functions in a gradually broad range of the social settings including the higher education, health care, work places and other organizations (Zayani, 1997). The point of McDonaldization is to remove unpredictable circumstances from both the production and consumption of food. By eliminating ‘surprises’ from the consumption of food, McDonaldization also removes risk (Turner, 1994).


Every society is full of artefacts and norms or rules that help maintain and bolster cultural values (Kitayama, 1992). These ideas become shared among members of a society. McDonaldization is a new process although it has deeply rooted in the historical process of rationalization. McDonaldization has a profound effect on the way individuals experience their world. The term describes the rationalization of society—the places and spaces where people live, work and consume—using the fast-food restaurant as a paradigm. The process is a direct consequence of the ascendance of four related processes: a push for greater efficiency, predictability, calculability, and replacement of human with non-human technology (Ritzer, 2000).


The first cornerstone of Mcdonaldization appealed much to the society. The second cornerstone is calculability, in the belief that the objective of the endeavor needs to be quantifiable, i.e., sales in contrast to taste of the food being served which is subjective and therefore non-quantifiable. The third cornerstone is predictability. This suggests standardization and uniformity of services while the fourth cornerstone, control, pertains to the standardization and uniformity of employees. The last two cornerstones are manifestations of the aim of McDonaldization, which is homogenization (Ritzer, 2000). According to Bronson (2004), the society runs in an assembly line-like manner. This is the kind of society where production, distribution and consumption of products and services are being done in the fastest possible time while keeping with acceptable outcomes.


Situations like these call to mind socialist theories like Marxism, alienation, and hegemony. According to Williams (1977) Karl Marx was a famous philosopher, social scientist, historian, revolutionary and probably the most influential socialist thinker that emerged during the 19th century. When Marx settled in London, he came up with the ideology that "a new revolution is possible only in consequence of a new crisis", so he devoted his time in studying political economy in order to find out the causes and conditions of this crisis. Marxism, as proposed by Karl Marx basically comprises the following ideas:


(1) the economic classes and its relationship with each other in terms of production is the most important feature in a society,

(2) a class is identified through the relations of its members by means of production,

(3) the capitalists benefit more because they own the means of production while the proletariat or the laborers owns only their capacity to work in the production of materials,

(4) the main feature of socialism is public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and

(5) the increasing exploitation of the working class leads to economic crises, because the working class cannot afford to buy the products of its labor.


All these contribute to the idea of alienation in which classes are formed and members of lower social class particularly people in the labor force, are alienated from the goods their produce due to inadequate income – income that can not afford the goods that are mass-produced (Marx, 1867). In this light, the theory of McDonaldization is a concrete example of social situation being criticized by Marx. In looking at today’s society, one can see that most lines between social classes are blurred with by the relative tolerance of its members. Everybody seems to be doing the same thing, wearing the same clothes, watching the same movies or programs and listening to the same songs. A first hand inspection would tell you that the lines are indeed blurred or that the barriers have been broken but a closer investigation would lead one to analyze the controlling forces that dictate the activities of the people in a certain society.


According to Gramsci (1971) the main task of the Marxist-Revolutionary movement is the “conquest of the masses”. The theory of Permanent Revolution believes that the struggle against imperialism would not be successful until the workers will have their consummation of worker’s democracy.  Moreover, it is interesting to note that it is always a dynamic process wherein while one can be lulled with the complacency of popular values and ideas, another one will be dead-set on countering it. Counter-cultures and alternative lifestyles spring up until they become the dominant cultures of the society. Until that happens, the dynamic struggle continues (Strinati, 1995).


Meanwhile, the mass media and the messages that it presents and feeds to the audience have long been criticized for consumerism and its passive treatment to the audience. According to Elinder (1961) media and other related technologies have homogenized consumer tastes and that whatever differences that the individual person exhibits is broadly generalized that they are almost indistinguishable with each other. He supported this point of view when he introduced the concept of international advertising (Elinder, 1961) which constitute the means for the proliferation of McDonaldization concept and practices at the individual level.


 According to Kotler and Armstrong (2001), consumers around the world are different in various factors such as age, income, education level and preferences which may affect the way they avail of goods and services. This behavior then impacts how products and services are presented to the different consumer markets (Kotler & Armstrong, 2001). In line with this, the theory of Hierarchy of Needs as pioneered by Abraham Maslow constitutes levels of self-actualization achievements in order to fully function and exhaust the personal and social abilities of an individual. He claimed that in order for a person to achieve one’s personal self-actualizing ability in which one is able to obtain the overall well-being that he or she wants several needs should be first met. These needs include the physiological, safety, love and belongingness, and esteem needs (Vroom & Deci, 1989).


The theory of Hierarchy of Needs defines physiological needs which include the basic and biological standards of existence like food, shelter, and clothing. Safety needs is the individual’s capability to feel secure and in good condition in him or herself. Love and belongingness needs are the conditions in which an individual feels the affection and comfort that are willingly given by the people around him or her especially those who are likewise important and dear to oneself. Finally, esteem needs is the condition wherein a person is able to feel confident and sure of him or herself by being able to feel free and responsible to every action one makes (Vroom & Deci, 1989). 


Hence, in the advent of globalization and in the critical analysis of McDonaldization, following the Maslow’s theory in the perspective of the labor force of the capitalist corporations that exist at present clearly indicates the inequalities as well as inadequacies that characterize modern societies around the world. Evidently, the individual social ladders enumerated by Maslow emphasize the need to look into the reality of today’s technological advancement and the ideologies of globalization.



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