Last Updated 02 Apr 2020


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Weber viewed bureaucracies as such a powerful form of social organization that he predicted they would come to dominate social life.  He called this process the rationalization of society, meaning that bureaucracies, with their rules, regulations, and emphasis on results would increasingly govern our lives.  Sociologist George Ritzer (2006) see the thousands of McDonald’s restaurants that are in the United States and more and more around the globe as having much greater significance than simply convenience of burgers and shakes.

McDonaldization is defined as the process of how the principle of the fast-food restaurant is coming to take over more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the globe.  Ritzer holds that predictability, calculability and control over people through the replacement of human and non-human technology are the elements behind Weber’s formal rationality.

Ritzer compares the fast-food restaurant with the home-made meal, and finds it to be more expensive and less pleasant.  You could also compare it to the traditional cuisine restaurant.  By comparison fast-food restaurants are obviously cheaper, more informal and more accessible to more people.  In such a comparison the fast-food restaurants may be seen as a kind of democratization of the restaurant services. And it is certainly something that Americans see as predictable, calculable and having control over society.

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Fast food restaurants have replaced the social interaction that was once a tradition of Mom staying home to cook and all sitting down to eat at a certain time (and usually when Dad had come home from work after a long day at work).  Now with the two parents working family the fast food restaurant has helped bureaucracies to expand and develop the twenty-four hour society.  The growth of the fast-food industry has also been one of the factors both enabling and resulting in the growth of female out of the home paid employment.

According to Ritzer the credit car is the most important American icon, because it is a means to obtaining other American icons.  Ritzer uses the credit card as a window to get a better view of American society and culture, it expresses something about America.  It speeding planting around the globe gives other cultures and societies an American express or appearance.  Through the use of the cards other cultures, according to Ritzer, are Americanized.

Through the credit card has it good points, Ritzer focuses on the darker side and attendant problems such as consumerism and debt, fraud, invasion of privacy, rationalization and homogenization in the shape of Americanization.  The money economy is associated with a temptation to imprudence and a resulting risk of overspending and going deeply into debt.  According to Ritzer, both the intangibility of money and the swiftness of transactions increase with the use of credit cards.  As a result credit cards will lead to even greater levels of imprudence.

The author shows that credit card debt has become the most common form of financial liability in the U.S.  Even though the risks of imprudence are more or less intrinsic to the cards he also blames the credit card industry for luring people even deeper into debt problems.  Ritzer lays out the malaise of the American consumer society, criticizing the credit card companies for their exploitative conduct and the American government for their unwillingness to regulate industry and to give consumers adequate protection.


Ritzer, G. (2006).  McDonaldization: The Reader.  New York: Sage Publication.


McDonaldization essay

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