The McDonaldization of Social Life

The McDonaldization of Social Life






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Word Count: 1663 words

The McDonaldization of Social Life

Description of the Social Issue

Based on George Ritzer’s sociological analysis, The McDonaldization of Society, the study of this social issue presents an assessment of the effect of structural alterations on human indentity. Even though the analysis of this social issue centers on McDonald’s organizational practices, it emphasizes on the tenets within the fast food sector and their effect on the American society. In definition, McDonaldization implies the processes through which the practices employed in the fast food industry undergo implementation in other similar and disparate organizational cultures. The concepts employed by the fast food sector have spread rapidly to other sections of the society. Such concepts influenced by this industry present the main issue within the contemporary society. Furthermore, these concepts, which are prevalent in the modern society, describe the main themes that describe organizational practices employed by various firms and companies apart from fast food restaurants.

Nonetheless, McDonaldization is indeed a prevalent social issue. This is due to its effect on the American society in terms of routine practices. Since it implies rationalization of daily activities, McDonaldization influences the lives of people in the modern society. The practices arising from McDonaldization are also consistent in other sectors of the society. For example, shopping malls are currently controlled surroundings of accepted design, colors, opening and closing schedules and logos. Additionally, travel agencies for the American middle class provide the same standard service for different visitors. These services involve similar restaurants, hotels and lodges and other predictable milieus. The influence of McDonaldization is also evident in newspapers in the American society. An example of this is the USA Today. The USA Today generates the same insipid, immediate and unanalytic news (Ritzer, 2011). Thus, the McDonaldization process influences the standardization of business practices in other unrelated segments of the society.

The success of McDonaldization bases on certain dimensions that describe its objective. These dimensions are also part of other models employed by other industries and sectors within the American society. Nonetheless, these dimensions are constant in these contemporary industries. They comprise Efficiency, Calculability, Predictability and Control. According to Currey & Hinote (2011, p.128), “Efficiency involves getting from one point to the next in the best and most streamlined manner possible”. Thus, efficiency is an important aspect of the McDonaldization since it emphasizes on the reduction of costs by adopting cost-effective mechanisms. Calculability places emphasis on quantity over quality. McDonaldization accentuates on objects that are able to undergo calculation, counting and quantification. Predictability implies standardization. Based on this issue, predictability stresses similarity in the provision of services based on the notion that people do not appreciate surprises. Lastly, control refers to the incorporation of structures that limit human intervention especially in provision.

Regardless of the success of McDonaldization, this issue poses considerable detriments over the contemporary American society. Based on the concepts highlighted, the McDonaldization process presents grave impacts based on the extremity of rationalization. This means that overemphasis of these concepts in different sectors may lead to a rigid system that does not offer any alternatives apart from the rationalized ones. Emphasizing on this statement, Ritzer (2011) implies that rational systems disallow humanity and reason for the people involved in them. Thus, rational systems arising from McDonaldization constitute dehumanizing structures that do not focus on gratifying social needs but express intent in profit maximization. Furthermore, this irrationality associated with McDonaldization will lead to inefficiency.

Sociological Explanation

The main sociological explanation for McDonaldization in contemporary American society involves the rationalization process as evident in Weber. The process of rationalization comprises four main systematic procedures that sustain and encourage productivity, control and output within a rationalized structure (Currey & Hinote, 2011). This implies that a rationalized system requires efficiency, calculability, predictability and control over the individual and the system. These concepts provide the basis for the practice of McDonaldization in the contemporary society. Furthermore, the similarity of these concepts comprises the theory of bureaucracy, which emphasizes on these principles for maximum productivity. Thus, the explanations for the occurrence of McDonaldization include:


Cost-effectiveness is one of the main reasons for the rapid occurrence of McDonaldization in the modern American society. The McDonaldization process places emphasis on cost-effectiveness via efficiency. Efficiency is a dimension of Weber’s rationalization process. According to Weber, the rationalization process or formal rationality is the ideal structure for a capitalist society based on its inculcation of regulations, policies and social structures. Based on this assertion, bureaucracy is the most viable illustration of formal rationality. It describes an organized and structured framework that ranks people within a structure for maintenance and promotion of order. An aspect of bureaucracy based on efficiency involves profit maximization. With respect to efficiency, bureaucratic structures are predisposed towards provision of optimum results associated to the profit objective (Currey & Hinote, 2011). Therefore, such structures tend to focus on cost-effective interventions in order to maximize gains on their part.


Homogenization is also another incentive for the occurrence of McDonaldization. McDonaldization emphasizes on the provision of standardized optimum services regardless of the disparity in sectors. Homogenization relates to the dimension of predictability. Predictability is an aspect for formal rationality. This is because rationalization accentuates on the increase of effort for ensuring predictability. Furthermore, individuals existing in a rational society desire to have knowledge of the expectations they may face regardless of the settings and time (Ritzer, 2011). This is also an aspect of bureaucracy. Bureaucracy emphasizes on formality and rigidity. Hence, by stressing on predictability, bureaucratic structures concentrate on the provision of similar services in different milieus in order to control and structure the individuals within a respective society. Based on the notion of predictability, it is evident that McDonaldization focuses on homogenizing the society in order to ensure control and dispel activities that may dispel the process.

Authoritative Control

Authoritative control is also another factor for the spread of McDonaldization in modern society. A sociological explanation involves the nature of the bureaucracy as an authoritative and formalized structure. Bureaucratic structures are highly organized and place emphasis on rules and regulations. These decrees aim at controlling the people in a system. Thus, it is apparent that control is a dimension of bureaucracy. Apart from the issuance of rules and regulations, another form of bureaucratic control comprises replacement of people with technology. The replacement of people with technology is a control mechanism common in bureaucratic structures. This is because of the unpredictable nature of humans. Thus, adopting non-human technology allows these structures to gain significant control and maintenance of order over individuals existing within a system. This is also evident in McDonaldization, which emphasizes on replacement of people with technology for purposes of control over people receiving services from the system.

Consequences of McDonaldization

Regardless of the advantages arising from McDonaldization especially in terms of profit, McDonaldization also imposes significant costs that may be irreversible especially in the long-term. These consequences comprise:

Provision of Sub-standard or Harmful Products

One consequence of McDonaldization arises from its emphasis of quantity over quality. In accordance with the Calculability dimension, the McDonaldization process equalizes quantity with quality. However, this is detrimental. According to Bruenderman (2009), emphasizing quantitative aspects influence people to discard qualitative aspects. In turn, people begin viewing these quantitative aspects as the better alternative. For instance, due to insufficient time, people resort to value objects that materialize quickly. Examples of such objects comprise things such as cash advances, credit and debit cards or fast foods. Based on this, it is possible to provide harmful products to people due to emphasis of quantity over quality. Concerning fast foods, their availability and low prices increases obesity rates in the American society. This is because people choose purchasing more of fast food products rather than spending more to consume quality and healthy foods. Furthermore, organizations also resort to producing large numbers of products in order to maximize profits and discarding quality as an important aspect.

Increased Unemployment

Another consequence of the McDonaldization process comprises unemployment. This is because of the replacement of humans with nonhuman technology. Based on the Control dimension, the McDonaldization process focuses on increasing control and predictability in organizational structures by employing technology. This is because people are prone to unpredictability. This is not the case for machines since they do not possess emotions and are under control of the managers. Therefore, inculcating this technology in organizations abolishes the significance of human employees. This is because the machines are capable of performing the same activities more effectively than humans perform. Another reason for the adoption of nonhuman technology involves elimination of costs and errors. For instance, the implementation of self-checkout technology in grocery stores expels the importance of human cashiers. Bruenderman (2009) implies that the replacement of human cashiers with self-checkout systems enables managers to offer cheaper services to customers devoid of higher errors that usually arise from human cashiers. Based on this illustration, it is apparent that the employment of nonhuman technology encourages retrenchment of human employees based on the reduction of costs and errors arising from human consumption.

Elimination of Learning Experiences

The expulsion of learning experiences especially among employees is another implication arising from McDonaldization. The McDonaldization process omits learning experiences through outsourcing (Bruenderman, 2009). Outsourcing involves the utilization of external employment. Usually, outsourcing focuses on the reduction of specific costs that an organization may incur if it uses its employees. For instance, such costs may comprise training and development costs. Therefore, in order to discourage such costs, most organizations focus on employing external employees at a charge lesser than the costs arising from training employees. Even though this assists the organization to mitigate costs, it disallows existing employees from gaining expertise and thus hinders learning experiences. This is because employees do not receive the platform that allows them to learn from new experiences through training. Additionally, the employment of outsourcing further diminishes employee creativity. This is because employees do not possess new knowledge concerning the tasks that the organization is outsourcing.



















Bruenderman, A. (2009). Negative effects of McDonaldization. Gatton Student Research Publication, 1(2), 1-8. Retrieved from

Currey, D. A., & Hinote, P. B. (2011). The evolution of industrial food production: McDonaldization and population health. Scientia Et Humanitas, 1, 121-135. Retrieved from

Ritzer, G. (2011). The Weberian theory of rationalization and the McDonaldization of contemporary society. In Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited (Chapter 2). Retrieved from




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