Ritzer on McDonalds (NB a good quick summary in his Sociological Beginnings…)
|COMMENTARY SLIDE 1
This a very popular formulation -- catchy and easy to break into lists etc. 4 basic characteristics -- efficiency means choice of efficient means to achieve specified ends (includes assembly-line philosophy of Macs, drive-throughs, making the customer work to assemble own burgers and dispose of waste etc), calculability of process and product (quantification of meals, portion, times etc,), predictability (standardised meals and Mcworkers all over the world -- trained by the Hamburger University) , non-human technology -- factory farms, microwaves,computerisation eg cash tills, drinks dispensers -- and robot workers)
Rational means but irrational and unhelpful outcomes --what is efficient for the company is not necessarily so efficient for us. The 2 aspects are clearly linked for marxists, although not so, perhaps, for Weber . The McLibel case shows the downside of the company and its alleged negative effects -- cruelty to animals, harmful components, poor health safety, worker tedium and exploitation. This could be a (poorly -perceived) source of dissent and resistance by customers -- so the company tried to add ‘fun’ to compensate?
Ritzer has gone on to suggest there are possible ways in which rationalisation will triumph. Take the case of Japan and hyperrationality -- a horrible fusion occurs between rationality of companies, and what people want in life, their own personal stance towards work and living, their own goals etc
Overall -- there is clear support for old Fordists way of working and living, extended into fast food and into a good deal of other areas --education, news and media, recreation in general, including tourism. We need no ’new times’, no ‘postmodernism’ OR (in the softer version) lots of the old modernity and Fordism still remains
M Weber on Rationalization
|COMMENTARY ON SLIDE 2
We need to be brief on this, but Weber gets lots of mentions in Ritzer. He
read Weber and he experienced the shift to fast food and that’s how he
got into McD (he tells us in Sociological Beginnings). Weber is a great hero
in Sociology, famed for lots of specific studies -- maybe there is one
general theory too -- rationalisation. Worth pointing out that there is a number
of standard criticisms of Weber too, and these may haunt Ritzer's version as
Figure 1 -- Applying the ideal-type as a checklist
1. The person in authority occupies an office. Authority is therefore impersonal, separate from ownership or personal loyalties. Office -holders are appointed, on a legal contract and on the basis of their technical qualifications. Promotion follows seniority or achievement ( i.e. job expertise)
2. Offices are arranged in a rational hierarchy. Higher offices co-ordinate lower ones in a spirit of rational efficiency
3. Each office has a clearly defined sphere of competence – hence a marked specialisation occurs
4. Actions are regulated by impersonal technical rules, grounded in rational authority. All acts, decisions and rules are clearly formulated and recorded in writing
|schools/ the education system
1. Clear fit with the ways in which teachers are officially appointed and promoted, but there are also some subjective elements (e.g. minorities and women are under-represented at the top?). The education system is increasingly controlled by non-expert laymen – e.g.the DfEE, OFSTED, HEFCE (all UK Govt organisations), parents
2. There are formal hierarchies in teaching (scale points, heads of depts etc). Knowledge can be organised as a hierarchy too (in ‘collection codes’), but there are also non-formal, non-hierarchical elements – ‘progressive’ pedagogy, team teaching, ‘integrated codes’. Teachers are autonomous professionals? ‘Efficiency’ can be hard to apply to schools – league tables? OFSTED rankings? ‘Performance indicators’ in h.e.?
3. There is some specialisation by subject expertise in upper levels, but the teacher’s role is also diffuse. Specialist managers?
4. Teachers’ relationships are not governed by impersonal rules alone but by ‘warm, diffuse personal’ ‘relationships with kids and colleagues. Administration is still amateur and collegial 'beneath' the increasingly rational and managerial (‘line management’)?
1. Bureaucratic authority is not always unconnected with ownership or kinship. Appointments and promotions can still be subjective and/or rooted in power, class, gender, ethnicity
2. Underdogs still have informal power and the ability to resist. Bosses have to organise compliance (Etzioni). The formal models of organisation (as in flow charts etc) do not always fit actual practice. Segments can develop ‘functional autonomy’ (Gouldner)
3. Actual individuals do not always keep to the formal limits of their jobs. It is not even always functional that they do – e.g. when the organisation is innovating
4. Too tight a set of regulations leads to numbness or ‘ritualism’ (RK Merton) (‘going through the motions’). Much organisational life goes on outside of formal frameworks, according to social rules – e.g. actual decision-making or ‘practical action’(try Bourdieu on this)
|COMMENTARY ON SLIDE 3
We can see a powerful spread of principles of fast food production all over US life says Ritzer -- banking and the news. Especially
in areas we know and like in Leisure and Tourism -- Disney, shopping malls,
whole themed environments or cityscapes. These can develop into whole McWorlds
-- Barber cited in Ritzer's chapter in Rojek and Urry (1997) -- where shopping
malls plus parks plus sports arenas plus machine banking plus TV plus internet
cafes etc all cluster to deliver some sort of total Mac experience). Implications
arise for tourism -- the package tour is an example of McDonaldisation
which is still around a lot says Ritzer, and new virtual tourism -- which
despite its gee-whizz technology is still nice and predictable, calculable,
and efficient as well as non-human (at least IF you accept the restrictions
of the medium). The organisation of these sites and activities are
still very important for Leisure Studies.
|A critiqueFor a decisive critique of Weberian methodology in general you could also try Hindess|
|A final exercise
I've given lots of hints about this -- now you try out the argument for yourselves,on, say the universities you know. Keen persons might want to go on to read Parker and Jary (1995) or even Prichard (1996). Anyway, how rationalised are universities really? Above all, what is the underlying nature of the modern university -- is it:
Alfino M et al (eds) (1998) McDonaldization Revisited: critical essays on consumer culture, Praeger: Westport, Connecticut
Parker M and Jary D (1995) 'The McUniversity: Organisations, Management and Academic Subjectivity' in Organisation, 2,2: 319--38.
Prichard C and Willmott H (1996) 'Just how managed is the McUniversity?', unpublished, a paper given at the Dilemmas of Higher Education Conference, Staffordshire University, UK, April 10-12, 1996 (should be available from the authors via the University of Nottingham or the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) respectively).
Ritzer G (1993) The McDonaldization of Society, Sage: London
Ritzer G (1994) Sociological Beginnings: On the origins of key ideas in Sociology, McGraw-Hill Inc., New York
Ritzer G (1997) The McDonaldization Thesis: explorations and extensions, Sage: London
Rojek C & Urry J (eds) (1997) Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory, Routledge: London
Smart B (1999) Resisting McDonaldization, Sage: London
Vidal J (1997) McLibel Macmillan: London
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