A fundamental characteristic of information-based, postindustrial societies, as described by Weber a century ago—and truer than ever today—is the rationalization phenomenon, the “deliberate, matter-of-fact calculation of the most efficient means to accomplish a particular task.” (Macionis, 2005, p.103) With the shift in cultural norms and preoccupations that accompany technological advances, those tasks have generally become centered around convenience in accomplishing material, economic, and personal goals defined by consumerist institutions and confined within bureaucratic procedures.
In the McDonaldization of Society (1993), George Ritzer uses the worldwide fast-food franchise to illustrate the dehumanizing process that our modern societies are undergoing on many levels. A strong paradox lies within the way people actively participate in the creation of structures that slowly alienates them from aspects of their life that used to shape its meaning and uniqueness—work, personal interactions, creativity, independent thought.
Ritzer illustrates this irrational rationalization of society with his analysis of the McDonald’s franchise, as he contends that the characteristics of the company apply to modern society at large. If we take a closer look at what Ritzer identifies as the four essential principles of McDonaldization (i.e. efficiency, calculability, uniformity/predictability, and control through automation), it does become clear that many models fit that mold, and that insidious yet catastrophic consequences are slowly emerging from the widespread application of those principles.
Efficiency has become a core value in modern society. Anything that allows us to carry out a task quickly and conveniently is considered a lifestyle improvement: fast cars on 5-lane freeways (why leave earlier and enjoy the landscape?), express self-checkout lines at the grocery store (why have to make small talk with a cashier?), TV-dinners in...