What is McDonaldization of society?

McDonaldization is a process whereby all businesses and indeed institutions conform to the model of practice established by the fast-food chain giant McDonald’s. American sociologist George Ritzer first proposed this thesis in his bestselling book The McDonaldization of Society (1993). Ritzer identifies four key features of McDonaldization which, adapting Max Weber for the postmodern era, he refers to as a rational system: its efficiency (the food fills you up quickly); calculability (transformation of quantity into quality); predictability (the product is the same everywhere from Boston to Beijing); and control through non-human technology (supply gives shape to demand). His complaint is that despite the productive advantages of rational systems, they give rise to numerous unintended disadvantages e.g. the large-scale potato and beef farms necessitated by the McDonald’s menu and the unhealthy cost-cutting farming practices the low budget demands. Somewhat nostalgically and not all that persuasively, Ritzer suggests that what he calls ‘premodern’ businesses like ‘mom and pop’ grocery stores and privately run B&Bs can be considered to have escaped McDonalization. But this is naive: at the very least it overlooks the highly McDonaldized supply chains and service regulations such enterprises must adhere to. As persuasive as the anecdotal evidence is, Ritzer supplies very little detail on the degree to which society, rather than businesses and bureaucracies, is becoming McDonaldized. Ultimately, it is, therefore, a rather gloomy and impressionistic jeremiad against change.