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George Ritzer (born 1940) is an American sociologist, professor, and author who studies globalization, metatheory, patterns of consumption, and modern and postmodern social theory. His most notable contribution to date is his concept of McDonaldization, which draws upon Max Weber's idea of rationalization through the lens of the fast food industry. Currently, Ritzer is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
New York City, United States
|Main interests||Sociology · Social theory · Metatheory · Theory of rationalization · Political sociology · Economic sociology · sociology of consumption|
|Notable ideas||Created the concept of McDonaldization · consumption (sociology) · something vs. nothing · prosumption · globalization · grobalization · glocalization · metatheory · edited and contributed to numerous social theory compilations|
- 1 Early life
- 2 Education and early employment
- 3 Academic employment
- 4 Ritzer's Main Ideas
- 5 Bibliography
- 5.1 Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science (1975, 1980)
- 5.2 Toward an Integrated Sociological Paradigm (1981)
- 5.3 The McDonaldization of Society (1993)
- 5.4 The McDonaldization of Society 7: 20th Anniversary Edition (2012)
- 5.5 The Globalization of Nothing, Second Edition (2007)
- 5.6 Enchanting a Disenchanted World, Third Edition (2009)
- 6 Leadership roles
- 7 Awards and acknowledgements
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Ritzer was born in 1940 to a Jewish family in New York City. His father worked as a taxi cab driver and his mother was employed as a secretary in order to support Ritzer and his younger brother. Ritzer later described his upbringing as “upper lower class”. After his father became ill, Ritzer recalled instances when his mother had to break open the family's piggy bank in order to provide for the family.
Education and early employment
Ritzer began his higher education at City College of New York. While at CCNY, Ritzer initially planned to focus on business, but he later changed his major to accounting. After graduating from CCNY in 1962, Ritzer decided that he was interested in pursuing business again. He was accepted into the M.B.A. program at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, where he received a partial scholarship. While at Michigan, Ritzer's official academic interest was human relations; however, he had many other intellectual hobbies, such as reading Russian novels. Ritzer reported that at Michigan, as he was able to grow and improve as a student. However, during his time at Michigan, Ritzer remembers being heavily involved in global events occurring at the time. He reports memories of going to the Michigan Union to watch the happenings of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
After graduating from The University of Michigan in 1964, Ritzer began working in personnel management for the Ford Motor Company. However, this proved to be a negative experience for Ritzer. His managers mistakenly hired more people than was necessary for his job, leaving Ritzer idle and unoccupied. As he once said: “[i]f we had two hours of work a day, it was a lot”. Nevertheless, Ritzer was always expected to appear busy. He would constantly wander around the factory for hours observing people working. This caused many of the workers and foremen to become hostile towards Ritzer. Moreover, Ritzer also found problems within the management structure at Ford. Most of the younger people with advanced degrees defied their less educated authorities. Ritzer said, "I'd like to see a society in which people are free to be creative, rather than having their creativity constrained or eliminated."  Furthermore, Ritzer found himself constrained and unable to do anything creative while working at Ford, encouraging him to apply to Ph.D. programs.
Ritzer enrolled in Cornell University’s School of Labor and Industrial Relations Ph.D. program in Organizational Behavior. There, his adviser Harrison Trice urged him to minor in sociology. After being introduced to sociology by the head of the department, Gordon Streib, Ritzer found himself enthralled with the subject matter. He continued to succeed in sociology courses at the graduate level. As a testament to his interest and dedication to the subject, Ritzer received an A+ on a 102-page paper he wrote for a course on American society. He attributed his talent of being able to compete with well-read and experienced sociology students to his work ethic.
After graduating from Cornell in 1968, Ritzer has received various academic appointments throughout his career at universities around the United States and the world:
- 1968-1970: Assistant Professor, Tulane University
- 1970-1974: Associate Professor, University of Kansas
- 1974-2001: Professor, University of Maryland
- 1984: Visiting Exchange Professor, University of Surrey, England.
- 1988: Visiting Professor, Shanghai University, China; Peking University, Beijing, China
- 1990: Visiting Exchange Professor, University of Surrey, England
- 1996: Visiting Professor, University of Tampere, Finland
- 2001: Visiting Professor, University of Bremen, Germany
- 2001–present: Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
- 2002, 2004-2008: Visiting Professor, Associazione per l’Istituzione della Libera Università Nuorese, Sardinia, Italy
- 2012: Visiting Professor, University of Salzburg, Austria
- 2013: Visiting Scholar, Center for Advanced Study, University of Munich, Germany
Ritzer's Main Ideas
Although known as a sociologist, Ritzer never earned a degree in sociology; he was trained in psychology and business. As Ritzer said in a later interview, “I basically trained myself as a social theorist, and so I had to learn it all as I went.” Despite this challenge, Ritzer found that not being trained in social theory was actually advantageous for him, simply because his reasoning was not limited to a particular theoretical perspective. Listed are his biggest accomplishments in social theory:
Ritzer’s idea of McDonaldization is an extension of Max Weber’s (1864–1920) classical theory of the rationalization of modern society and culture. Weber famously used the terminology “iron cage” to describe the stultifying, Kafkaesque effects of bureaucratized life, and Ritzer applied this idea to an influential social system in the twenty-first century: McDonalds. Ritzer argues that McDonald’s restaurants have become the better exemplar of current forms of instrumental rationality and its ultimately irrational and harmful consequences on people Ritzer identifies four rationalizing dimensions of McDonalds that contribute to the process of McDonaldization, claiming that McDonalds aims to increase:
1. Efficiency: McDonalds delivers products quickly and easily without inputting an excessive amount of money. Other services follow a “McDonalds model”, such as completing tax forms online or easy weight loss programs.
2. Calculability: McDonalds works on the principle that everything about the McDonalds experience, from the portion sizes to the time spent in a franchise, is standardized and highly calculated.
3. Predictability: Related to calculability, customers know what to expect from a given producer of goods or services. For example, customers know that every Big Mac from McDonalds is going to be the same as the next one; there is an understood predictability to the menu as well as the overall experience.
4. Control: McDonalds restaurants pioneered the idea of highly specialized tasks for all employees to ensure that all human workers are operating at the exact same level. This is a way to keep a complicated system running smoothly; rules and regulations that make efficiency, calculability, and predictability possible.
McDonaldization is profitable, desirable, and at the cutting edge of technological advances. Many “McDonalds” aspects of society are beneficial to the advancement and enhancement of human life. Some claim that rationalization leads to “more egalitarian” societies. For example, supermarkets and large grocery stores offer variety and availability unlike smaller farmer’s markets from generations past. The Internet has provided countless new services to people that were previously impossible, such as checking bank statements without having to go to a bank or being able to purchase things online without leaving the house.  These things are all positive effects of the rationalization and McDonaldization of society.
However, McDonaldization also alienates people and creates a disenchantment of the world. The increased standardization of society dehumanizes people and institutions. The “assembly line” feel of fast-food restaurants is transcending many other facets of life and removing humanity from previously human experiences.
An early admirer of Jean Baudrillard’s Consumer Society (1970), Ritzer is a leading proponent of the study of consumption. In addition to The McDonaldization of Society, the most important sources for Ritzer’s sociology of consumption are his edited Explorations in the Sociology of Consumption: Fast Food Restaurants, Credit Cards and Casinos (2001), Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption (2nd edition 2005, 3rd edition forthcoming), and Expressing America: A Critique of the Global Credit-Card Society (1995). Ritzer is also a founding editor, with Don Slater, of Sage’s Journal of Consumer Culture.
First coined by Alvin Toffler in 1980, the term prosumption is used by Ritzer and Jurgenson , to break down the false dichotomy between production and consumption and describe the dual identity of economic activities. Ritzer argues that prosumption is the primordial form of economic activities, and the current ideal separation between production and consumption is aberrant and distorted due to the effect of both Industrial Revolution and post-WWII American consumption boom. It has only recently become popularly acknowledge that the existence of prosumption as activities on the internet and Web 2.0 resemble prosumption much more so than production or consumption individually. Various online activities require the input of consumers such as Wikipedia entries, Facebook profiles, Twitter, Blog, Myspace, Amazon preferences, Ebay auction, Second Life, and etc. Ritzer argues that we should view all economic activities on a continuum of prosumption with prosumption as production (p-a-p) and prosumption as consumption (p-a-c) on each pole.
Something vs. Nothing
According to Ritzer, "Something" is a locally conceived and controlled social form that is comparatively rich in distinctive substantive content. It also describes things as being fairly unique. "Nothing" is "a social form that is generally centrally conceived, controlled and comparatively devoid of distinctive substantive content"  "Nothing" usually aims at the standardized and homogenous, while "something" refers to things that are personal or have local flavor. Examples of "nothing" are McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, credit cards, and the Internet. Examples of "something" are local sandwich shops, local hardware stores, family arts and crafts places, or a local breakfast cafe. Ritzer believes that things that embody the "nothing" component of this dichotomy are taking over and pushing "something" out of society. He explains the advantages and disadvantages of both "something" and "nothing" in The McDonaldization of Society.
In Ritzer's research, globalization refers to the rapidly increasing worldwide integration and interdependence of societies and cultures. This book presents a sophisticated argument about the nature of globalization in terms of the consumption of goods and services. He defines it as involving a worldwide diffusion of practices, relations, and forms of social organization and the growth of global consciousness. The concept of "something" vs. "nothing" plays a large part in understanding Ritzer's Globalization. Society is becoming bombarded with "nothing" and Ritzer seems to believe that the globalization of "nothing" is almost unstoppable  Ritzer’s aforementioned The Globalization of Nothing (2004/2007) stakes out a provocative perspective in the on-going and voluminous globalization discourse. For Ritzer, globalization typically leads to consumption of vast quantities of serial social forms that have been centrally conceived and controlled –one McDonald’s hamburger, i.e., one instance of nothing again and again- dominates social life (Ritzer, George. 2004. The Globalization of Nothing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press). To better understand globalization, it can be broken down into a few characteristics:
- The beginning of global communication through different media like television and the Internet
- The formation of a "global consciousness"
In addition to The Globalization of Nothing, Ritzer has edited The Blackwell Companion to Globalization (2007), written Globalization: A Basic Text (2009), and edited an Encyclopedia of Globalization (forthcoming). Insight into Ritzer’s distinctive approach to globalization is available via a special review symposium in the Sage journal Thesis Eleven (Number 76, February 2004).
Grobalization involves three motor forces: capitalism, McDonaldization, and Americanization. Grobalization creates a world where:
1. Things are more homogenous and ubiquitous.
2. Larger forces overwhelm the power of people to adapt and innovate in ways that preserve their autonomy.
3. Social processes are coercive, determining the nature of local communities, which have little room to maneuver.
4. Consumer goods and the media are key forces that largely dictate the nature of the self and the groups a person joins.
Glocalization is a combination of the words "globalization" and "localization" used to describe a product or service that is developed and distributed globally, but is also fashioned to accommodate the user or consumer in a local market. Ritzer further explains Glocalization as a relatively benign process that is closest to the "something" end of things. It creates variety and heterogeneity within society.
Metatheory can be defined as the attainment of a deeper understanding of theory, the creation of new theory, and the creation of an overarching theoretical perspective. There are three types of metatheorizing. The first (Mu), aims at being a means of attaining a deeper understanding of theory. The second (Mp), aims at being a prelude to theory development. The last (Mo), aims at being a source of perspectives that overarch sociological theory. Influenced by Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Ritzer has long advocated the view that social theory is improved by systematic, comparative and reflexive attention to implicit conceptual structures and oft-hidden assumptions. Key works include Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science (1975), Toward an Integrated Sociological Paradigm (1981), Metatheorizing in Sociology (1991), and Explorations in Social Theory: From Metatheorizing to Rationalization (2001). See also Ritzer’s edited Metatheorizing (1992).
Ritzer is known to generations of students as the author of numerous comprehensive introductions and compendia in social theory. Postmodern society is a consumer society that invents new means of consumption, such as credit cards, shopping malls, and shopping networks. Today, "Capitalism needs us to keep on spending at ever-increasing levels to be and remain capitalism."  As with several of Ritzer’s other principal works, many are translated into languages as diverse as Chinese, Russian, Persian, Hebrew and Portuguese. Key volumes in this genre include The Sociological Theory (7th edition 2008), Classical Sociological Theory (5th edition 2008), and Modern Sociological Theory (7th edition 2008), Encyclopedia of Social Theory (2 vols. 2005), and Postmodern Social Theory (1997). For convenient access to many of Ritzer’s substantive contributions to modern and postmodern social theorizing, see Explorations in Social Theory: From Metatheorizing to Rationalization (2001) as well as more recent work often co-authored with his many students, such as (with J. Michael Ryan) “Postmodern Social Theory and Sociology: On Symbolic Exchange with a ‘Dead’ Theory,” in Reconstructing Postmodernism: Critical Debates (2007).
George Ritzer has published many monographs and textbooks. He has edited three encyclopedias, including the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. He has written approximately one hundred scholarly articles in respected journals.
Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science (1975, 1980)
Based on his original article appearing in the American Sociologist, this book provides a foundation for Ritzer’s other works on metatheory. The piece applies Thomas Kuhn's idea of scientific paradigms to sociology and demonstrating that sociology is a science consisting of multiple paradigms. Ritzer also discusses what implications this has for the field of sociology.
Toward an Integrated Sociological Paradigm (1981)
In this book, Ritzer contends that sociology needs an integrated paradigm in order to add to the extant paradigms noted in Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science. Ritzer proposes an integrated paradigm dealing with the interrelationships between the many levels of social reality.
The McDonaldization of Society (1993)
In this provocative book, George Ritzer explores how Weber's classic thoughts on rationalization take on new vitality and meaning when applied to the process of McDonaldization. He describes this as the process by which the principles of the fast food restaurants are coming to dominate more and more sectors of society in the United States as well as the rest of the world.
Ritzer shows how Weber's central characteristics of rationalized systems - efficiency, predictability, calculability, substitution of non-human for human technology and control over uncertainty - have found widespread expression in a broad range of organized human activity, including travel, consumer products and services, education, leisure, politics and religion as well as in the fast food industry.
The McDonaldization of Society 7: 20th Anniversary Edition (2012)
George Ritzer’s McDonaldization of Society, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, continues to stand as one of the pillars of modern day sociological thought. By linking theory to 21st century culture, this book resonates with audiences in a way that few other books do, opening their eyes to many current issues, especially in consumption and globalization. As in previous editions, the book has been updated and it offers new discussions of, among others, In-N-Out Burger and Pret a Manger as possible antitheses of McDonaldization. The biggest change, however, is that the book has been streamlined to offer an even clearer articulation of the McDonaldization thesis. The final chapter also looks at “The DeMcDonaldization of Society,” and concludes that while it is occurring on the surface, McDonaldization is alive and well.Find McDonaldization of Society, 7 on Publisher's Website
The Globalization of Nothing, Second Edition (2007)
The Globalization of Nothing, Second Edition emphasizes the processes of globalization and how they relate to McDonaldization. As before, this book is structured around four sets of concepts addressing the issues of: "places/non-places," "things/non-things," "people/non-people," and "services/non-services." By drawing upon salient examples from everyday life, Ritzer invites the reader to examine the nuances of these concepts in conjunction with the paradoxes within the process of the globalization of nothing. Critical questions are raised throughout, and the reader is compelled not only to seek answers to these questions, but also to critically evaluate the questions as well as their answers. The current edition features a greater emphasis on the main topic of globalization: a new first chapter offers an introductory overview of globalization and globalization theory, outlining the unique ways in which these topics are addressed throughout the text. It also delves into two subprocesses of globalization—“glocalization” and “grobalization.”Go to Publisher's website
Enchanting a Disenchanted World, Third Edition (2009)
Enchanting a Disenchanted World, Third Edition examines Disney, malls, cruise lines, Las Vegas, the World Wide Web, McDonald's, Planet Hollywood, credit cards, and all the other ways we now consume. The current edition was updated to reflect the recent economic recession and the impact of the internet. Ritzer continues to explore this book’s central thesis: that our society has undergone fundamental change because of the way and the level at which we consume. The third edition demonstrates how we have created new "cathedrals" of consumption (places that enchant us so as to entice us to stay longer and consume more) while continuing to take capitalism to a new level. These places of consumption, whether in our homes, the mall, or cyberspace, are in a constant state of "enchanting the disenchanted," luring us through new spectacles because their rational qualities are both necessary and deadening at the same time. The book also includes a wide range of theoretical perspectives — Marxian, Weberian, critical theory, postmodern theory — as well as a number of concepts such as hyperconsumption, implosion, simulation, and time and space to show the audience how sociological theory can be applied to everyday phenomena.Find Enchanting a Disenchanted World on Publisher's Website
George Ritzer has held notable positions of leadership, including 
- 2009-2010 – First Chair of the ASA Section-in-Formation on Global and Transnational Sociology
- 2000 - American Sociological Association Distinguished Scholarly Publication
- 1989–1990 Chair of Section on Theoretical Sociology, ASA
Present Positions: Editor, Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology ● Editor, Journal of Consumer Culture ● Associate Editor, Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change ● Editorial Board, Sociology Analysis ● Consulting Editor: St. Martin Press/Worth, Series on Contemporary Social Issues; Sage of England, Series on Cultural Icons; McGraw-Hill.
Awards and acknowledgements
- Who’s Who in Social Science Higher Education, 2004
- Who’s Who in American Education
- Who’s Who in the World
- Who’s Who in the East
- Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, 2000, American Sociological Association
- Resisting McDonaldization, edited by Barry Smart (Sage, 1999) contained essays on Ritzer's McDonaldization thesis
- Mark Alfino, John Caputo and Robin Wynyard edited a volume, McDonaldization Revisited (Greenwood Press, 1998), also including essays on McDonaldization
- Special issue of the Dutch journal Sociale Wetenschappen 4, (1996) devoted to Ritzer's book The McDonaldization of Society.
- Ritzer, George. "Ailun". Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Dandaneau, Steve P.; Dodsworth, Robin M. (2006), Being (George Ritzer) and Nothingness: An Interview (PDF), retrieved 2014-03-03
- Ritzer, George (2008), Vita: George Ritzer (PDF), retrieved 2009-10-07
- Ritzer, George. "George Ritzer".
- Farganis, James (2010). Readings in Social Theory, 6th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0078111556.
- Ritzer, G. The McDonaldization of Society. SAGE Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, 1996
- Massey, Garth (2012). Readings For Sociology, 7th Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 453–455. ISBN 9780393927009.
- Massey, Garth (2012). Readings For Sociology, 7th Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 457. ISBN 9780393927009.
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. pp. 381–384. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Massey, Garth (2012). Readings For Sociology, 7th Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 456. ISBN 9780393927009.
- Dandaneau, Steve P.; Dodsworth, Robin M. (2006), A Consuming Passion: An Interview with George Ritzer (PDF), retrieved 2009-06-28
- Ritzer, George; Jurgenson, Nathan (2010), Production, Consumption, Prosumption : The nature of capitalism in the age of the digital 'prosumer, Journal of Consumer Culture10:13
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. pp. 396–397. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 398. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Ritzer, G. The Globalization of Nothing, Pine Forge Press, Thousand Oaks, 2004,
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 396. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 402. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Glocalization. Investopedia.
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 400. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Mann, Douglas (2007). Understanding society : a survey of modern social theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 399. ISBN 9780195421842.
- Ritzer, George (1990). "Metatheorizing in Sociology". Sociological Forum 5 (1): 3–15. JSTOR 684578.
- Ritzer, G. Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1974,
- Ritzer, George. "The New Means of Consumption: A Postmodern Analysis". Retrieved 4 October 2012.
- The American Sociologist, Vol. 10, No. 3, August 1975 (pp. 156–167)
- Ritzer, G. Toward an Integrated Sociological Paradigm. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1981,
- Ritzer, G. The McDonaldization of Society. SAGE Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks. 1993.
- Ritzer, G. The McDonaldization of Society, 7th Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, 2012.
- Ritzer, G. The Globalization of Nothing, 2nd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, 2007.
- Ritzer, G. Enchating a Disenchanted World, Third Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2009.
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