The Globalization of McDonaldization

” If we eat McDonald’s ham and potatoes for a thousand years, we will become taller, our skin will become white, and our hair will be blonde,” {Schlosser}. This is a quote from Den Fujita, the Japanese billionaire who brought McDonalds to Japan. It is pronouncing the corporate mentality towards the Globalization of McDonaldization. What this means is not only have foreign businesses embraced the McDonaldization of business, but the lifestyle of the irrationality of rationality. According to critics of McDonaldization, if we let convenience and efficiency run rampant, it will lead us into a future of a homogenized world.

McDonaldization Defined:

Sociologist George Ritzer, who coined the phrase McDonaldization, defines it as ” the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurants are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world,” {Giddeons & Dunnier, pg 251}. This process extends its practices into businesses and lifestyles of all types. As people adjust to the McDonaldization of business it crosses over into their everyday lives.

McDonaldization consists of four elements, Efficiency, Calculability, predictability and Control. Ritzer calls these the dimensions of McDonaldization and is the four pillars on which capitalism now builds its empire, {Massey, pg 323}. Through efficiency, the service or product is offered in the most direct way. Calculability is the convincing of consumers that bigger is better and they get more for their money – Super Size it. In assuming that most people don’t like surprises, businesses create homogeneous products or services offering a sense of predictability consumers come to expect. To accomplish all these dimensions a high amount of control must be implemented. “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,”{}. The McDonalds corporation lists this aspect as a mission statement for the company in “leveraging the strengths of the McDonald’s system through innovation and technology,” {}.

The affects of McDonaldization can be seen everywhere today and it is reaching to extremes. There are several stores, most likely seen in suburban areas, like Wal-Mart where you can shop for just about anything from food to clothes, develop your film and eye-lenses in under an hour, pump your gas, access an ATM, eat at McDonalds and grab some Starbucks. Furthermore it can all be done without every interacting with a store employee using bankcards and automated checkout. Heightened security surveillance compensates for obvious concerns with minimized employees attending several checkout machines, both enforcing the dimension of control. The practice of co-branding and placing franchises within a franchise, McDonalds in Wal-Mart is creating a convenience factor that is unbeatable.

“And Syracuse is just the tip of the McDonaldized iceberg,” as Chris Wright puts it in his article ‘The McDonaldization of Syracuse.’ It is a global issue now as businesses are crossing boarders in all areas of the world. The McDonald’s corporation is often the first multinational corporation to arrive when a country has opened its market {Schlosser}, setting the pace for other businesses.

In Brazil, McDonalds is the country’s largest private employer and in Saudi Arabia during the nation’s holiday of Ramadan, Kentucky Fried Chicken earned over $200,000 in one week {Schlosser}. This shows that these corporations do not as much involve local traditions as they overshadow them. By incorporating local tradition and flavors in foreign franchises, it is nothing more than another way to profit off the local consumer. Cities are quickly losing their individuality; becoming a sea of just the same bright signs from coast to coast {Wright}. More so, Wal-Mart is now the largest employer in the United States and the fastest growing multi-national corporation. This is where there is danger in McDonaldization, in homogenization, in a future that lacks creativity and individuality. As more franchise businesses open world – wide the more success they enjoy and the easier it becomes to give in to the effects of McDonaldization. Nonetheless, there is noticeable resistance against these businesses, especially Wal-Mart and McDonalds.

McDonalds vs. The Little Guy:

It is called McDonaldization because the McDonalds Corporation is the most visible manifestation of the process. Many instances have occurred where a small group speaks out against McDonaldization, and because of their visibility, McDonalds suffers the most scrutiny. Two individuals in England handed out pamphlets questioning McDonald’s nutritional value and their advertising to children. It gained much media attention and even inspired a book by John Vidal and Ralph Nader called ‘McLibel’. McDonalds sued the two individuals and won the case due to legality, but awareness was still raised. Nutrition became the forefront of attack on McDonalds as seen in documentary ‘Super Size Me’ and contributed to drastic changes in the restaurant’s menu.

In another instance the French Farmer/revolutionary, Jose Bove and his McDonalds10 insurrected a McDonalds being constructed in France {}. Their fight was against globalization and the un-ethical practices of large corporations and once again the visible golden arches played the part of the big, bad corporation. Though corporations have a right to defend themselves publicly, that social responsibility requires them to seriously question the image they have. The allegations that were raised against them were recognized as true in some respects, but the corporation used legal loopholes to avoid any repercussions. As companies like McDonalds grow and expand, it allows them more influence and money to avoid being questioned by those who resist.

The company takes it’s self far too seriously, {}, they sell hamburgers with Global marketing campaigns. This has to do with the advertising practice of selling an image to sell a product or service. This can be seen in most advertising these days as a result people strive towards a lifestyle through the purchases they make and services they use.

Caged Animals:

It often seems as if the product has been taken off the assembly line and the consumers are put in its place. We are herded into the next purchase while waiting in line being advertised to. Perhaps the strongest pillar of Ritzer’s dimensions of McDonaldization is Control. Not only are there high controls of the production and service, but control of the individual consumer. In the chain grocery stores we are lead by rows and rows of junk to reach what we came for, items like milk and eggs, in the back corners of the store. When you finish your meal at McDonald’s the swaying doors on the trash containers read `thank you’, indicating you should clean up after yourself, including the drink you poured for yourself at the soda fountain. The labor has been shifted to the consumer cutting costs for the corporation, {Massey}. This is all part of the process of corporations forcing their consumers to also become good workers, lead to believe that this is for our convenience. This wave of self-serving services also leaves workers feeling alienated by the lack of interaction. We are becoming caged by automation as consumers and as workers.

The Iron Cage:

Max Weber’s coined the sociological term “Iron Cage,” and we have seen the bureaucratic experience in all our daily dealings. Weber wrote, “The care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the ‘saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment’. “But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage,”{Massey}. Weber’s Iron Cage was created by the capitalism operating under bureaucratic control. It consists of ridged guidelines and written rules, but is necessary in order to control large organizations. We all live and work in the Iron Cage being subject to its experience in education and government. Although bureaucracy still thrives in our government and educational systems, the cage has adapted to the modern world.

The Velvet and Rubber Cage:

This is where Ritzer’s adaptation to a Velvet and Rubber Cage started to develop. Within the Velvet Cage chain and franchise companies blossomed around the country and now globally. Familiar brands have emerged in every market from food, clothing, movie theaters, heath-care clinics and even tax accounting services. The Rubber cage offers a more flexible area of business and lifestyle through specialized services, independent businesses and quality – based products, {D’Amico Foods}, {Whole Foods}.

Whether someone lives and works in the Velvet or Rubber Cage depends on many aspects that must be considered. It is mostly a level of affluence and lifestyle choices or whether a person has those options available to them. For most people that live in the suburbs there are not many choices available. Most suburban towns were developed with chain restaurants and stores that saw opportunity in a growing population. Residents of larger urban cities have much more to choose from, such as local dinners, independent movie theaters and local corner stores.

The Rubber Cage of the City and the Velvet Cage of the Suburbs is one way to look at it. There is variety in an urban setting, but the Velvet Cage also exists. For example there is still a McDonalds on every corner, but those who can afford it can choose a local dinner instead. As for the suburbs choices are limited and the McDonalds inside the Wal-Mart is what you get. The suburbs can be seen as “an architectural version of the Invasion of the Body SnatchersâÂ?¦neighborhoods replaced by soulless alien substitutesâÂ?¦Instead of corner stores we have quick martsâÂ?¦Instead of Main streets, we have Mega MallsâÂ?¦Fast-Food architecture – McMansions – sit forlornly along monotonous cul-de-sacs,” {Suburban Nation}. The suburbs are a breeding ground for the homogenization and McDonaldization of America, offering little or no choice to the consumer. In every suburb you have a McDonalds, a Blockbuster Video and a Wal-mart, and each one symbolizes growth for the town. Just as when a McDonalds enters a foreign country it symbolizes growth and prosperity to the country for some.

Recalling life in a suburban town in Colorado, the native locals were nostalgic, some negatively of when McDonalds moved in. For a town that used to have more horses than people, the opening of a McDonalds was a major turning point in the town’s growth. The Wal-Marts and Blockbusters soon followed and for the new residents it was a sign that their town was booming. As for the natives, this was a symbol of all that was wrong with the world and most of them sold their land to developers who build more suburbs and more McDonalds-type establishments.

Cyber Cage

The Internet offers a massive global playground for businesses that thrive in the Iron, Velvet and Rubber Cage. The Rubber Cage will benefit most from the Internet, but something as transparent and adaptable as the Internet is fair game for either one. Velvet Cage businesses will benefit from the additional exposure to customers and their extended availability of products or services. Rubber Cage businesses can reach the same amount of people, in the same cost -effective way as firms in the Velvet Cage. Though it has become the same struggle for independent businesses to take advantage of the advertising space large chains and franchises have dominated for so long and now strive to dominate on the Internet. Even still, the businesses in the rubber cage may come out ahead on the Internet, as they tend to cater a more specialized service or product which goes hand in hand with the personalized aspects of the Internet.

The Internet also provides a way for business to track and record a lot of information about their customers. As you surf the net and share information about yourself, the more corporations know about likes and dislikes. This may be a good thing, in that we get what we want, but is it necessarily what we need? Marketing and Advertising research can be taken to extreme levels utilizing the Internet as we give away tons of information that is sold right back to us. This is creating something of a new cage amongst Ritzer’s Velvet and Rubber Cage. An Invisible cage or glass cage where it seems our options are limitless, yet it is just more products and services we don’t need.

The Internet is in some ways blurring the lines between the Velvet Cage and the Rubber Cage. It allows companies to build a storefront without the constraints of location. Businesses that traditionally operated in the velvet cage could better specialize their product or service on the Internet for the customer, {}. They could portray a more personal image, just as businesses in the Rubber Cage could seem larger and more efficient {}.

Conclusion: Balancing the Future

To prevent the McDonaldization of our future a balance must be met in accountability and the allowance of control to corporations. Corporations are on a fast track to being the official sponsor of everything. Instead of more limits and restrictions placed on the corporations, they are being removed. For instance Media conglomerates have long been restricted on ownership of television and radio in the same markets. Congress is now considering lifting these restrictions, which would allow companies like Viacom and The News Corporation to control television, radio and print media in the same market. Viacom already owns 65% of the radio advertising space through its purchase of CBS, should they be allowed more control. A corporation is an artificial being, a non-entity, a board of directors not held liable for their actions. The media conglomerates like Viacom, Bertelsmann Music Group and Time Warner/AOL are a faceless threat where the bottom line is profit. Companies whose idea of social responsibility is more like social control.

As witness to this overwhelming control of Media conglomerates, I’ve seen it working in the Publishing Industry. The best example of McDonaldization in publishing is the ‘For Dummies’ series or the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series. An idea that worked to generate better profit and was overused. To even consider Book Publishing an industry is a part of the threat. Unique arts and entertainment continually risk diminishing without the sponsorship of corporations. How can the independent book publishers, filmmakers, theaters and stores survive if conglomerates buy them up as stock commodities? The largest distributor of Independent films, Miramax is not truly independent, as the Disney Corporation owns them. Even the term “Independent” loses it’s meaning and becomes just another repackaged lifestyle used in advertising. This is sustained as corporations develop within the process of McDonaldization.

In no way should this conclusion sound conspiratorial, as in mega corporations bent on taking over the world. Though it is plausible to consider the possibility of a future in which continued McDonaldization will contribute to the rising power of these corporations. The McDonalds Corporation started as an independent store in Northern Illinois. It was an idea and system that worked for business and spread like wildfire, from Hamburgers to books. The Internet is taking on it’s own form of McDonaldization, overusing the aspects most efficient to users and designers.

If more restrictions are put on corporations, it will make room for more creative enterprises, allowing fresh ideas to blossom. Multinational corporations already bureaucratically obtuse, rarely foster new ideas latching onto trends and beating the same dead horse. As the influence of corporate culture spreads, more freedom for true independent business, by restrictions on the behemoths will mean less monotony within society. This is in no way anti-globalization either; there could be positive aspects of a global community. The question is do we want companies like McDonalds and Wal-Mart putting their logo all over this global community?


-{Schlosser} – Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, page 367, Global Realization Chp.

-{Giddeons and Duneier}, Anthony Giddeons & Mitchell Duneier, Introduction to Sociology, page 251 – Ritzer’s McDonaldization, W.W. Norton & Co.

-{Massey} – Garth Massey, Readings for Sociology, Page 323 – 24, George Ritzer The McDonald’s System


-{Schlosser} – Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, page 369, Global Realization Chp.

-{Schlosser} – Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, page 372, Global Realization Chp

-{Wright} – Chris Wright, The McDonaldization of Syracuse,

-{} –

-{} –, under the ‘Why’ paragraph

-{Massey} – Garth Massey, Readings for Sociology, Thomas R Ide & Arthur J. Cordell, Automating Work, page 343, chapter 36.

-{Massey} – Garth Massey, Readings for Sociology, page 321, chapter 33 – Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

-{D’Amico Foods} an example from the syllabus sites,

-{Suburban Nation} Andres Duany, Suburban Nation, page 12, Introduction

-{} an example

-{} an example

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