Sociology and Control Shape Organization
Assignment 3: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of McDonaldization. Discuss how parts of society have become cookie-cutter/standardized (addressing the 4 characteristics) society.
McDonaldization is the term invented by George Ritzer to describe a sociological phenomenon that exists in our society. It is the process by which the principles of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control shape organization and decision making in the United States and around the world. In the United States, McDonaldization begun when Henry Ford pioneered with his vision of an assembly line for improving the production of automobiles. Bottom line, McDonaldization is the process of rationalization 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. However, there is a problem to this, 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. Efficiency is something that is sought after by many people, even without the shackles of McDonaldization. The difference is that in a McDonaldized society, efficiency is thrust upon a person, so instead of choosing your own methods of efficiency, you are forced to accept the efficiency of the surrounding institutions. In fact this can lead to a lamb-like acceptance of what the surrounding institutions consider efficient. Which may be vastly different from what would actually be efficient for either the employees or the consumer. An example of this inefficient efficiency is the ATM machine, popular at many banks. The consumer has to fill out all of the paper work, enter in the deposit or withdrawal to the computer, and, on top of all this, pay for the privilege of being a bank teller. Many would argue that the ATM machines are conveniences, rather than inconveniences. However, keep in mind that this serve to reduce the level of human interaction. Consumers are forced to deal with computers and not people, training them to be better workers for the McDonaldized society. The second aspect of McDonaldization is calculability.
Calculability is an emphasis on the quantitative aspects of products sold for example, portion size, cost, and services offered. Ritzer pointed out that this emphasis leads to the erroneous conclusion that more is better. If there is a lot of a product then it must be good. This is why we “super size” our “Double” Big Mac “extra” value meal. It is thought of as a better product. Predictability is another aspect of a McDonaldized society, emphasizes such things as discipline, order, systemization, formalization, routine, consistency, and methodical operation. In such a society, people prefer to know what to expect in most settings and at most times. This has a two-fold effect. It makes the experience of the consumer the same at every location of a McDonaldized company. It also makes the work routine for the employees of that company. This predictability has spilled over into more than just jobs and food. The most popular movies out today are sequels. Sequels are great, because they are almost assured to make money for the studio, writers don’t have to work as hard, because the characters have already been developed. Consumers love them because they also don’t have to think.
The moviegoer is usually familiar with the characters in the sequel and knows what to expect, making the movie experience more of a passive one. A definite aspect of McDonaldization is control. Control over both employees and customers because people are the great source of uncertainty, unpredictability and inefficiency in any rationalizing system. By increasing control, through increased mechanization, employers maintain a better control over the entire rationalization process. Ritzer’s focus involves control through the substitution of non-human for human technology. By making tasks repetitive and forcing employees not to think, employers can maintain a tighter control over them. Deskilling within a McDonaldized society, employees do not need wide-ranging skill sets. In fact, to be productive, they only need to know how to complete a single task. This is an efficient way for companies to operate since new employees do not require a lot of training to be competent to perform a single task. This keeps training costs low. Since single-task employees require the least amount of education, they can be paid the lowest wages. This leaves them with little bargaining power to negotiate with their employers since they are so easily replaced. Then we go home, and the computer decides the money we take from the ATM. Our meals are frozen, we microwave our popcorn our microwaves even have “popcorn” buttons on them, so the popcorn is perfect every time, and our salads come pre-made in bags, just open and pour. However, all of these “advances” becomes a step back. We are in less control and computers are in more control. As things become more automated, it is easier to replace workers, and as we spend more time in front of the television and less time thinking for ourselves. We become more dependent on the very things that McDonaldization creates.