Social theories are ideas generated by scholars in attempting to explain the social structures of the society. These theories touch on issues such as religion, crime, education, politics, philosophy and many other aspects of the society. Each theorist has held divergent views on different issues and such scholarly debate is always constructive. Social theories, that attempt to explain the manner in which a society tends to go in a different and repugnant, have been developed by different social theorists. An example of such social phenomena is rationalization developed by the great German sociologist Max Weber. He argues his assertion through his works “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” in explaining the bureaucratic nature that natural leadership will have to entail. Other sociologists have explained have based their ideas on Weber’s rationalization to explain other concepts of the society. One such theory is the McDonaldization theory that has emerged among a new crop of scholars. This paper evaluates this phenomena with particular emphasis on theorist that have based their works n Weber’s Rationalization theory.
McDonalization as a Concept Based on Rationalization
Several works on the new social phenomena has been published by several theorists. A good example is George Ritzer, who describes a sociological trend that was taking root in the American society in his book titled ‘The McDonaldization of society’. The works of Ritzer defines this trend as the process of rationalization, as defined by Weber, and in this case, taken to extreme levels. The process of rationalization is defined as replacing logically reliable and consistently applied rules with illogical ones to meet a short term goal . The process involves breaking down tasks into smallest possible tasks and determining the single most efficient way of performing the tasks. The rest of the methods are considered inefficient and thus discarded. The method identified is considered to be the most efficient way of performing a single task repetitively to give a product. Henry Ford is considered as the pioneer of his ideology, using it in the production of automobiles and it is claimed to have achieved a very efficient production method .
The process of McDonaldization is identified with main four features, that is, efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. Efficiency can be defined as identifying and making use of the most optimum means to get to an end . In this case optimum refers getting the most output with the least resources put to the process. While normal processes would give you a variety of options or methods to undertake a task, McDonaldization forces an individual to take only a single course of action determined to be one most efficient according to the surrounding environment. However, the quest for a totally efficient system has been blamed for the reduction in human interaction in many processes such as the bank Automated Teller Machines (ATM) . Rationalization theories suggest efficient and less human based systems are more preferable than old methods.
The second distinguishing feature of the McDonaldization is calculability. The trend of McDonaldization has put emphasis on the determining the amount or quantity of a product, either sold or service rendered. Ritzer (2000) states that this feature is based on the fallacious thoughts common with many consumers and business that ‘more is better’. No wonder many businesses market their products with terms such as “extra” and “double sized”. Calculability is based on the fact idea that determining the outcome of a procedure is paramount to a process. Ritzer emphasizes that such quantification is the basis of McDonalization.
The third distinguishing feature of this process is predictability as is based on Weber’s rationalization theory. Weber defines rationalization as a process where there is total predictability in nearly every aspect. Here, the theory suggests that a process insists on doing the same task in the same manner over and over again leading to descriptions of the process using terms such as routine, regular, methodical approach and consistent result . The automobile industry is known to lead in this front, with their manufacturing processes basically a routine of events carried out day in day out. Other aspects since as the television industry have also preferred this predictable mode of operation.
The last defining feature is control. Since the process McDonaldization is the methodical selection of a single method for solving a task, it has eliminated the opportunity for humans to deviate from the set course. Employees as well as consumers know what to do and how to do it before hand and so the process is easily controlled. A good example is the Aviation Industry in which pilots have a set of procedures that they are supposed to strictly follow without deviations no matter the occasion . Uniform in employees is also one major step that control is said to be used. In several work stations such as Airports, different uniforms indicate different departments in which the employees work from. This method of providing different uniforms provides different levels of control among the employees.
The process of McDonaldization has been heavily felt in the aviation industry. This industry has strictly divided all the tasks that involve the boarding of passengers, landing and letting planes as well as loading cargo. It has influenced how the pilot flies the plane as well as the procedures involved in case in a hijack. The industries tries to achieve efficiency by having each fleet of plane have and ordered manner of loading their passengers and the airports also have their routines of handling the many planes flying in and out of the airport .
Control has been achieved by routines in terms of piloting that offer a specific order of events that the pilot must perform to lift the plane off the ground. Nearly all aircrafts models have the same procedure which has been deemed as efficient and safe. No pilot is allowed to deviate from these routines .The impact of McDonaldization is evident in this industry. The routine procedures involved in boarding of planes and loading cargo were initially meant to save time; however, it has resulted to be one of the greatest time-wasting procedures. Airport hours have proved to be long with poor results of how to improve the status quo.
The process of McDonaldization has also proved to be one of the most adopted models in the society. Schools are insistent on a routine or a set order of events that govern the institution, as well as teaching students to develop their own routines to follow. Children are taught be routinely from a very young age, making them non creative on how to adjust to new lives when they change schools . This somewhat routine lifestyle is a preferred model of life as compared to haphazard or random lifestyles.
Our society needs to shun all aspects that foster this trend of routine and strict procedures. Communities need to learn that McDonaldization leads to deskilling a work force by not inspiring creativity . They should instead encourage several methods of solving a single problem without relying only on the set out rules. Children are to be allowed to question routines and be allowed to develop their own ways of doing things. This is based on the fact that, every individual has a right to several attempts. It is no wonder, the great discoveries of the world took several attempts with failures and very little success reported .
While social theories may seem farfetched and quite theoretical, the assertions of rationalization as explained by Max Weber are quite convincing. The society rationalizes the idea that the simpler and less costly methods are preferable over complex models. Here, a society attempts to reduce procedures and process to a minimum as possible. However, scholars have asserted that McDonalization is a moribund and backward ideology. In that, reducing the necessary procedures and measures for the efforts of lowering costs is may be plausible. However, there is a concerted argument that shifting to rationalized concepts may be repugnant in nature. A famous sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman used the rationalization theories to explain the Holocaust and other significant changes in society. Here, Bauman explain that a society always prefers new ideas over old preferring newer fashions.
Hayes, D. (2006). The Mcdonaldization of Higher Education. IAP.
Ritzer, G. (2000). The Mcdonaldization of society. Pine Forge Press.
Smart, B. (1999). Resisting McDonaldization;Social Theory Series. SAGE.