McDonaldization is the term invented by George Ritzer to describe a sociological phenomenom that is happening in our society. You may think it started with Ray Kroc in the 1950's when he bought his first hamburger restaurant, but it's origins were actually much earlier than that. In fact, Henry Ford was the first McDonaldization pioneer with his vision of an assembly line for improving the production of automobiles. His revolutionary idea dramatically changed how many automobiles could be produced and was very efficient.
In essence, McDonaldization is the process of rationalization, albiet taken to extreme levels. Rationalization is a sociological term that simply means the substitution of logically consistent rules for traditional (or illogical) rules. One of the fundamental aspects of McDonaldization is that almost any task can (and should) be rationalized.
The process of McDonaldization takes a task and breaks it down into smaller tasks. This is repeated until all tasks have been broken down to the smallest possible level. The resulting tasks are then rationalized to find the single most efficient method for completing each task. All other methods are then deemed inefficient and discarded.
The result is an efficient, logical sequence of methods that can be completed the same way every time to produce the desired outcome. The outcome is predictable. All aspects of the process are easily controlled. Additionally, quantity (or calculability) becomes the measurement of good performance.
By now, you might be thinking that this all sounds pretty good. After all, being more efficient is a good thing. Controlled, consistent and measurable outcomes also sound good. So, what's the problem?
It turns out that over-rationalizing a process in this manner has an unexpected side effect. It's called irrationality. In a sociological context that simply means that a rationalized system may result in events or outcomes that were neither anticipated or desired, and in fact, may not be so good.
Take the example of the McDonald's chain of restaurants. Where is the irrationality? The premise of fast food often turns out to be just the opposite - long waits in lines. Fast food is not necessarily good food - in fact, McDonald's food is extremely unhealthy and the taste is average and bland. The system of efficiently producing and distributing their food has some other consequences, namely millions of tons of trash each year (disposability) and a food cultivation system of questionable ethics.
According to Ritzer, the four main dimensions of McDonaldization are:
There are other dimensions of McDonaldization that Ritzer didn't include with the main four, but are worthy enough for prime attention. They are:
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