McDonaldization is a term invented by author George Ritzer in his book, The McDonaldization of Society. Ritzer argues that the McDonald's business model rationalizes, that is, breaks down a given task into its most fundamental parts then creating logical, consistent rules to find the most efficient method for completing each task. He argues that over-rationalization can lead to irrational outcomes. Ritzer argues that McDonalization's focus on efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control leads to irrationality, de-skilling, and "consumer workers" (that is, consumers doing part of the work usually done by the company, such as taking the trash to the receptacle).
But Americans have mixed feelings about it: is it a robust, succulent spheroid of fresh ground beef, the birthright of red-blooded citizens, providing good jobs for teenagers and a boost to the national economy? or is the Big Mac, mass-produced to industrial specifications and served as junk food by wage slaves to an obese population? Is it cooking or commodity? An icon of freedom or the quintessence of conformity?
Along with Coca-Cola, the hamburger was once disdainfully regarded by many Europeans as the epitome of low cultural taste. With the advent of mass marketing from imitators of McDonald's such as Burger King, however, hamburgers have now spread around the world and, with variations, are consumed in every culture. Indeed the Economist magazine uses the price of a Big Mac to compare the price levels of different economies because it is the single most nearly standardized product in most countries around the globe.
Ritzer (2000) argues that McDonald's has succeeded so well because it offers consumers, workers, and managers a maximum degree of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control through non-human technology. These factors comprise a rational system, as first proposed by the German sociologist Max Weber. As with Weber's "iron cage of rationality," there is also a negative side to McDonaldization. Ritzer labels this "the irrationality of rationality", meaning that a rational system can produce a hail of irrational effects, from environmental damage to dehumanization of the workplace. Watson (2006) points out that East Asian patrons often transform their neighborhood McDonald's into a local institution similar to a leisure center or a youth club.
- Burger King
- Chip shop
- Domino's Pizza
- Fast food
- In-n-Out Burger
- Papa John's Pizza
- Subway (restaurant)
- Taco Bell
- White Castle
- Barber, Benjamin. Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
- Debres, Karen. "Burgers for Britain: A Cultural Geography of McDonald's UK," Journal of Cultural Geography, Vol. 22, 2005 online edition
- Love, John F. McDonald's: Behind The Arches (1995) excerpt and text search
- Ozersky, Josh. The Hamburger: A History (Yale University Press: 2008), 160pp excerpt and text search
- Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society (2000), 278pp
- Ritzer, George. McDonaldization: The Reader (2006) excerpt and text search
- Royle, Tony. Working for McDonald's in Europe: The Unequal Struggle? (2000) online edition
- Watson, James. Golden Arches East: McDonald's in East Asia, (2nd ed. 2006) excerpt and text search
- McDonaldization.com What Is McDonaldization?
- Josh Ozersky, The Hamburger: A History (2008),
- (Ritzer, 2000, pp. 16-18