From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
McDonaldization is a term used by sociologist George Ritzer in his book The McDonaldization of Society (1995). He describes it as the process by which a society takes on the characteristics of a fast-food restaurant. McDonaldization is a reconceptualization of rationalization, or moving from traditional to rational modes of thought, and scientific management. Where Max Weber used the model of the bureaucracy to represent the direction of this changing society, Ritzer sees the fast-food restaurant as having become a more representative contemporary paradigm (Ritzer, 2004:553).
Ritzer highlighted four primary components of McDonaldization:
- Efficiency – the optimal method for accomplishing a task. In this context, Ritzer has a very specific meaning of "efficiency". Here, the optimal method equates to the fastest method to get from point A to point B. In the example of McDonald's customers, it is the fastest way to get from being hungry to being full. Efficiency in McDonaldization means that every aspect of the organization is geared toward the minimization of time.
- Calculability – objective should be quantifiable (i.e., sales) rather than subjective (i.e., taste). McDonaldization developed the notion that quantity equals quality, and that a large amount of product delivered to the customer in a short amount of time is the same as a high quality product. This allows people to quantify how much they're getting versus how much they’re paying. Organizations want consumers to believe that they are getting a large amount of product for not a lot of money. Workers in these organizations are judged by how fast they are instead of the quality of work they do.
- Predictability – standardized and uniform services. "Predictability" means that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same service and receive the same product every time when interacting with the McDonaldized organization. This also applies to the workers in those organizations. Their task are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable.
- Control – standardized and uniform employees, replacement of human by non-human technologies
With these four processes, a strategy which is rational within a narrow scope can lead to outcomes that are harmful or irrational.
The process of McDonaldization can be summarized as the way in which "the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as of the rest of the world.” (Ritzer, 1993:1).
In subsequent publications, Ritzer conceptualized a cultural process he labeled "de-McDonaldization" as a reaction to McDonaldization, and cited modern baseball stadia with simulated nostalgic features as one example for this phenomenon.
The response from McDonald's, expressed by its representatives in the United Kingdom, is that Ritzer, like other commentators, uses the company's size and brand recognition to promote ideas that do not necessarily relate to the company's business practices.