The McDonaldization of Society

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The McDonaldization of Society: 20th Anniversary Edition cover art

The McDonaldization of Society was first proposed by sociologist George Ritzer in an article for The Journal of American Culture [1] and expanded in his 1993 book of the same name.[2] Ritzer suggests that in the later part of the 20th century the socially-structured form of the fast-food restaurant has become the organizational force representing and extending the process of rationalization into the realm of everyday interaction and individual identity. McDonald's of the 1990s serves as the case model.[3] The book introduced the term McDonaldization to learned discourse as a way to describe a social process which produces "mind-numbing sameness", according to a 2002 review of a related academic text.[4]

In McDonaldization Ritzer expands and updates central elements from the work of Max Weber and produces a critical analysis of the impact of social-structural change on human interaction and identity. The central theme in Weber's analysis of modern society was the process of rationalization; a far-reaching process whereby traditional modes of thinking were replaced by an ends/means analysis concerned with efficiency and formalized social control. Weber argued that the archetypal manifestation of this process was the bureaucracy; a large, formal organization characterized by a hierarchical authority structure, well-established division of labor, written rules and regulations, impersonality and a concern for technical competence. Bureaucratic organizations not only represent the process of rationalization, the structure they impose on human interaction and thinking furthers the process, leading to an increasingly rationalized world. The process affects all aspects of everyday life.

Applications and alternatives to the McDonaldization concept[edit]

McDonaldization is mentioned in over 8,600 publications[5] and has been applied to countless institutions from archives[6] to universities[7] and zoos.[8] The McDonaldization thesis has entered the culture and is widely accepted.

However, there are also critics of the concept. Aaron Ahuvia and Elif Izberk-Bilgin argue that while McDonaldization represents a particular collection of forces, there is a countertrend in post-industrial societies they call eBayization.[9] Whereas McDonaldization produces homogeneity and predictability, eBayization provides variety, adventure, and surprise. Tony Blackshaw presents IKEAization as another countertrend, distinguished by seven dimensions •Home (another word for Community) •Democracy •Incalculability and Unpredictability •Provincialism •Protestant Work Ethic •Cool •Freedom.[10]

On the 40th anniversary of Ritzer's article, The Journal of American Culture published 'Unwrapping the McDonald's model: An introduction to dynamic social theory', in which Titus Alexander argues that "Ritzer's analysis does not enable people to solve social problems or improve society. If anything, it paralyzes people into believing McDonaldization is an unstoppable behemoth they are powerless to influence." Alexander uses McDonald's to illustrate the thesis that institutions are everyday social experiments which embody knowledge about how to do things in society. McDonald's itself continuously adapts to difficult cultures and contexts using nine distinct layers of analysis. Alexander aims to show how social research can empower people to improve society by working on institutions as social models ("dynamic social theories"), citing Toyota, the Buurtzorg model of social care, and cooperatives as alternative models to McDonaldization.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ritzer, George (March 1983). "The "McDonaldization" of Society". The Journal of American Culture. 6 (1): 100–107. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1983.0601_100.x. ISSN 1542-7331.
  2. ^ Warner, Malcolm (1 December 1993). "The McDonaldization of Society (book review)". Journal of General Management. 19 (2): 86–90. doi:10.1177/030630709301900207. S2CID 220067523.
  3. ^ "The McDonaldization of society, 6th ed". Reference & Research Book News. 25 (3). August 2010. Archived from the original on 3 January 2018. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  4. ^ Gilbert, Elllen D (15 April 2002). "Review: Fast Food, Fast Track: Immigrants, Big Business, and the American Dream". Library Journal. 127 (7): 112. Archived from the original on 3 January 2018. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  5. ^ ""McDonaldization" : Article Search - UW-Madison Libraries". Archived from the original on 2023-11-14. Retrieved 2023-10-07.
  6. ^ Ciechanowski, Hadrian (2023-09-21). "McDonaldization of archives (an introduction to discussion)". Archeion. 124: 87–127. doi:10.4467/26581264ARC.23.001.17861. Archived from the original on 2023-11-14. Retrieved 2024-02-04.
  7. ^ Hayes, Dennis; Wynyard, Robin (2022-03-22). The McDonaldization of higher education updated. Routledge Handbooks Online. doi:10.4324/9781003262497-9. ISBN 978-1-032-20147-4. S2CID 246520475.
  8. ^ "The McDonaldization and Disneyization of Zoos". BeautySlayerBlog. 2014-11-12. Archived from the original on 2023-11-14. Retrieved 2023-10-07.
  9. ^ Ahuvia, Aaron; Izberk-Bilgin, Elif (5 Nov 2011). "Limits of the McDonaldization thesis: eBayization and ascendant trends in post-industrial consumer culture". Consumption Markets & Culture. 14 (4): 361–384. doi:10.1080/10253866.2011.604496. ISSN 1025-3866. S2CID 144616586 – via Routledge.
  10. ^ Blackshaw, Tony (2010-02-24). Leisure. London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203855959. ISBN 978-0-203-85595-9. Archived from the original on 2023-11-14. Retrieved 2024-02-04.
  11. ^ Alexander, Titus (24 September 2023). "Unwrapping the McDonald's model: An introduction to dynamic social theory". The Journal of American Culture. 46 (3): 232–241. doi:10.1111/jacc.13467. ISSN 1542-7331.