McDonaliztion and Its Four Core Concepts of Efficiency, Calculability, Predictability, and Control
Rational systems are dehumanizing our society and seem to be even more irrational than convenient.
According to Weber, the modern bureaucracy was defined by hierarchical roles, compartmentalized knowledge and roles, a perceived merit-based system of employment and advancement, and the legal-rationality authority of the rule of law. These characteristics could be observed (and still can be) throughout many aspects of societies around the world. According to Ritzer, changes within science, economy, and culture have shifted societies away from Weber's bureaucracy to a new social structure and order that he calls McDonaldization. As he explains in his book of the same name, this new economic and social order is defined by four key aspects.
"Most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them." (Ritzer 1994:154) The lines at the fast-food restaurants can be very long, and waiting to get through the drive-thru can even take longer than going inside. These rational system don't save us money; we might spend less, but we do more work. The food we eat is often less nourishing, loaded with stabilizers and flavor enhancers, fats, salt and sugar. This contributes to the health problems of our society, a definitely "antihuman" component. As our children grow up within these systems, they develop habits which insure our increasing dependency upon the systems. The packaging used in fast food industry pollutes the environment. And the family: part of its solidarity and integrity was centered around the family meal: The communal meal is our primary ritual for encouraging the family to gather together every day. If it is lost to us, we shall have to invent new ways to be a family. It is worth considering whether the shared joy that food can provide is worth giving up. (Visser, 1989:42; in Ritzer, 1994:156) Microwavable foods and fast-food restaurants allow us to eat what we want, when we want it. The ritual of cooking, eating together, and sharing is fading from the American family. Two final problems are worth noting. How long will it be before these rational systems evolve beyond the control of people. How much of our lives are already subject to their influence and control. What happens when the people who control the systems succumb to being controlled?
McDonaldization is continually making its way into more aspects of healthcare. We as citizens must voice our opinions to fight for the healthcare we deserve.
Sociological Beginnings: On the Origins of Key Ideas in Sociology, McGraw-Hill, 1994.
The McDonaldization of Society, Pine Forge Press, 1993.
"A Meditation on the Microwave," Psychology Today, December 1989, pp. 38ff.