Muses about everything from MECM20003 to hipster glasses and hot chocolate

Rationalization, fast food, and me.

Today’s generation, me included, has grown up in a world of rationalization: 24/7 fast food restaurants, instantaneous communications that elide spatial distance and time, global conglomerates with standardized procedures.

Max Weber’s argues that bureaucracies inevitably dominate human behaviour like an “iron cage”. Indeed, ours is a world that is structured by the forces of rationalization.

Elaborating on this, Ritzer details the process of ‘Mcdonaldisation of society’, whereby the logic of rationality permeates contemporary structures of society, with four emphases:

  1. Efficiency, or the optimum level of performance.
  2. Calculability, or the emphasis on the quantitative of items
  3. Predictability, or the assurance that products and experiences will be standardized over any time or locales.
  4. Control, that is, control over humans who enter the world of Mcdonalds.

I work in a fastfood restaurant (not Maccas!), and my job is to take orders, prepare food and serve food, and do random miscellaneous jobs like setting up the shop.

Thinking back, indeed, the structure of the fast-food organisation is very much influenced by Mcdonald’s successful system of rationalization.

Across Victoria, the franchises of said fast-food restaurant look the same: there are similar interior color combinations, similar workers clad in similar clothing, standardized menus, similar posters, etc.

Taking down orders are standardized affairs I could do with both eyes closed: what burger would you like? Would you like to make that a combo? Would you like any fries with that? Would you like to upsize your fries for $1? Would you like any sauce with that? Would you like a drink? Do you want to have that here? Would you like to pay by cheque, savings or credit?

With every change in menu, say the implementation of a new item, the general manager would travel to every store on that day, putting up posters and teaching cooks how to prepare the item and briefing lowly workers like thyself on how to sell the product.

Likewise, food has to be served and packed in under five minutes.

Customers have to a designated place to queue at, and wait for their food.

That said, is rationalization bad?

Ritzer posits the idea that ‘rational systems are not reasonable systems’, whereby humans are dehumanized to acting systematically and efficiently like robots.

This then detracts from the entire mystery and excitement that a natural, unplanned, unscripted life would have.

As gloomy a thought that is, one must remember how rationalization has structured our society so it can run efficiently and productively. This is something past generations and centuries of civilians have not experienced.

If rationalization is the price I have to pay for getting my food quickly, or being able to utilize my Apple warranty in any country at any Apple outlet, then yes, I’ll take it any day.

It is only when the gears of society are well-lubricated and running smoothly that we are unfettered and free to do other things that may positively boost the quality of our lives: philosophical pursuits, technological inventions, and the like.

A little homogeneity and structure in our contemporary lives is a definite welcome change to the constantly evolving world.


The Rationalization of Everything? Using Ritzer’s Mcdonaldisation to teach Weber, by Stephen Lippman and Howard Aldrich.

Chapter 43: The Mcdonaldization of Society, George Ritzer.


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This entry was posted on August 14, 2012 by .



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