McDonaldization of Society

George Ritzer and McDonaldization
In our modern society, trends and technology become such a large part of everyday life that people start to use them as verbs and adjectives. We google things we want to find out more about, blog about a recent trip, or friend somebody on Facebook. George Ritzer basically did the same thing with the fast-food restaurant McDonald’s in his best-selling book, The McDonaldization of Society. He defines McDonaldization as the process by which principles of fast food restaurants have come to dominate virtually every aspect of society. McDonald’s and other fast food chains offer an alternative to labour-intensive, home-cooked meals that have been attractive to busy families since the 1950s. Two of their most appealing defining attributes are convenience and affordability. These qualities and similar principles are becoming increasingly important in all aspects of our modern society.


The building block of McDonaldization is Max Weber’s concept of rationalization, which is the process of replacing traditional and emotional thought with reason and efficiency. Weber believed that most societies throughout history were governed by tradition and that the most significant trend in modern sociology is an increasing rationalization of every part of our daily lives. He was also convinced that rationalization would continue until our society would become an iron cage, dehumanizing everyone and creating an extreme level of uniformity. Likewise, Ritzer uses McDonald’s as a metaphor for the overrationalization of society. The popularity of the restaurant itself is a perfect example of rationalization because traditional, home-cooked family meals have been replaced with meals of practicality and convenience. Continued rationalization has led to sectors beyond the fast food industry becoming increasingly uniform and automated.


Principles of McDonaldization
According to the author, the two main principles of McDonaldization are predictability and calculability. These are the characteristics of McDonald’s and other fast-food establishments. However, they continue to be characteristics of other changing industries, such as shopping districts, education, healthcare, and more.


Customers of McDonald’s can predict the food menu: you’ll find the same Big Mac in California as you would in New York. The building, the decorations, and the uniforms are also usually the same. By the same token, other industries are becoming increasingly predictable. Most of the shopping malls across the country have the same stores. Popular fiction is 'rebooted’ over and over again in all kinds of media. Many popular websites even have the same basic layout. Consumers seem to love predictability and they often go with what they know.


The second principle of McDonaldization is calculability, which can be seen at McDonald’s in several ways. First, there’s an emphasis of quantity over quality. The size and weight of a burger that you buy is the exact same as the size and weight of a burger someone else buys – and the bigger, the better. Second, the cost of that burger is a big selling point. The appeal of low prices is obvious in their Dollar Menu. Third, speed is also considered extremely important and sometimes comes at the cost of quality. Similarly, quantity is increasingly important everywhere you go. Consumers often use price and number of items sold to gauge the appeal of a business. Many stores are now open 24 hours a day in order to stay competitive.


Adapted from www.study.com


Exercise 1

Find the words or expressions in the text which mean the following:

1) in the simplest terms: __________
2) a rule: __________
3) almost: __________
4) to take away the human aspect from sth: __________
5) the state of being the same: __________
6) the way sth is arranged: __________
7) the number of things / the amount of things: __________
8) how good sth is: __________
9) clear: ___________
10)to measure sth: __________
11)similarily: __________
12)to control: _________


Exercise 2
Match the expressions from the two columns into logical collocations:

1) a fast                                  point
2) labour                               what you know
3) a defining                         competitive
4) the building                     food chain
5) by the same                     at the cost of sth
6) a shopping                       token
7) to go with                         intensive
8) a selling                           attribute of sth
9) sth comes                        mall
10)to stay block                  of sth


Exercise 3

Provide English equivalents of these expressions:

1) wygoda
2) dostępność
3) rozsądek
4) być o czymś przekonanym
5) przewidywalność
6) obliczalność
7) sprawiać wrażenie, że …
8) atrakcyjność czegoś
9) nacisk na coś
12)wyguglać coś


Grammar corner…

One of the most efficient ways of making new words in English is adding a small part in front of it. We call those small parts PREFIXES, because they’re fixed BEFORE the word. So PRE- means before, just like in the word predict. Other prefixes also have their special meanings, e.g. over- (too much, e.g. overworked, overpaid, to overreact), under- (not enough, e.g. underpaid, underrated, underestimated), de- (without, e.g. to dehumanize sth, to demote sb, to demotivate sb), uni- (the same, one, e.g. uniform, unisex, unicycle), re – (again, e.g. to replace sth, to reboot a movie franchise, to reinstate sth).


Exercise 4

Use the words in parenthesis with the right prefix to make meaningful sentences.

1. I find it very ____________________ (MOTIVATING) when I can’t see the results of my work.
2. You’re ____________________ (REACTING), he didn’t do anything wrong.
3. Governments very often ____________________ (ESTIMATE) the power of the people, and the people often teach them a painful lesson.
4. There’s more and more gendered marketing and very few items on the market are ____________________ (SEX).
5. Many people believe that ____________________ (INSTATING) death penalty would solve the problem of increased crime.
6. You can’t ____________________ (DICT) the future, but you can analyze statistics and make assumptions.
7. Most critics didn’t like the movie, but I think it was very nice and much ____________________ (RATED).
8. I’m so ____________________ (WORKED), I can’t stop thinking about a vacation.
9. Excuse me, could you ____________________ (PLACE) my dessert? There’s a hair in this one.
10.Have you ever ridden a ____________________ (CYCLE)?



basically – zasadniczo
a principle – zasada
virtually – niemalże
to dehumanize sth – odczłowieczyć coś
uniformity – jednolitość
layout – układ
quantity – ilość
quality – jakość
obvious – oczywisty
to gauge sth – zmierzyć coś
likewise – podobnie
to dominate – dominować
a fast food chain – sieć barów szybkiej obsługi
labour-intensive – wymagający dużo pracy
a building block of sth – część składowa czegoś
a defining attribute of sth – cecha wyróżniająca coś
by the same token – z tego samego powodu
a shopping mall – centrum handlowe
to go with what I know – wybierać znane sobie produkty
a selling point – mocny punkt
sth comes at the cost of sth – coś dzieje się kosztem czegoś
to stay competitive – zachować konkurencyjność
convenience – wygoda
affordability – dostępność
reason – rozsądek
to be convinced about sth – być o czymś przekonanym
predictability – przewidywalność
calculability – obliczalność
to seem to be …-  sprawiać wrażenie, że …
the appeal of sth – atrakcyjność czegoś
emphasis on sth – nacisk na coś
similarily – podobnie
best-selling – bestsellerowy
to google sth – wyguglać coś
rationalization – racjonalizacja
underrated / underestimated – niedoceniany
to demote sb – zdegradować kogoś
to reinstate sth – ponownie coś wprowadzić


download lesson (pdf)


Ex. 1
1) basically
2) a principle
3) virtually
4) to dehumanize sth
5) uniformity
6) layout
7) quantity
8) quality
9) obvious
10)to gauge sth
12)to dominate
Ex. 2
1) a fast food chain
2) labour intensive
3) a defining attribute of sth
4) the building block of sth
5) by the same token
6) a shopping mall
7) to go with what you know
8) a selling point
9) sth comes at the cost of sth
10)to stay competitive

Ex. 3
1) blatantly
2) literally
3) innumerable
4) sth translated into profits
5) shamelessly
6) to embrace sth
7) these days
8) not infrequently
9) bankable
12) pretty
Ex. 4
1) demotivating
2) overreacting
3) underestimate
4) unisex
5) reinstating
6) predict
7) underrated
8) overworked
9) replace