Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rationalization of American Systems

McDonaldization, according to Ritzer, as per Robert Keel, is the fact that fast-food ideas are dominating more and more of American society (Robert Keel page). People in our society are constantly asking of leaders, bosses, neighbors, “What have you done for me lately?” and are increasingly concerned with their own lives first. McDonaldization allows this attitude to continue in American citizens, with its more-for-less principles. The efficiency of fast-food restaurants makes people want that at everywhere, at any time. Calculability is in essence that more-for-less idea; everything we buy has to be the most for our dollar. It is why bulk stores like Sam’s Club and CostCo do so well. Predictability makes us expect certain results every time we go somewhere. We expect a certain level of service, a certain amount of food, a certain price for what we are buying. In other words, change is bad. Finally, the human element is increasingly being removed due to McDonaldization. Computers run more of our lives these days. Things can be done simply by viewing someone else doing them, and often mindlessly. Individual originality and ingenuity are almost frowned upon in today’s society, as it might not produce the expected results, even if it produces better ones.

The irrationality of rationality refers to the idea that these rational systems of fast service and cheaper food are actually worse for us. Food that is the least expensive is often the least healthy. The speed of drive-thru dining does not usually lead to us saving time, as the drive-thru may be long, or we spend time driving to the restaurant. The stability of the American family that was so prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s is waning now as families spend less time together. Dinner time is in front of the television if even there, and every member of the family is tucked away in their room on their own computer, machines that are supposed to make our lives less complicated.

An example of McDonaldization for me would be the online classes I am taking. They utilize the growing power of the internet to give me college credit, but professors often assign more work than I might have attending a class on campus. Self-service gas stations are also a source of irrational rationality. While it can sometimes save time to swipe a credit card at the pump and fuel up without walking more than 3 feet away from one’s car, if a trip inside is required it becomes an inconvenience. Drinks, food, magazines, even the bathrooms are inaccessible to someone while they have to wait to pump their gas, whereas a full-service station could handle everything about your vehicle including checking your oil while you are inside.

Many times McDonaldization can be beneficial to us. Fast food restaurants should free up more time for us to spend on something else. Internet classes should be a convenience that can be worked into our schedule, not visa versa. Gas stations should now be a quick trip to the pump. But unfortunately all of these things are not always as they should be. Technological malfunctions can slow them down where a problem did not exist before. Conveniences like online classes become obsolete when the professor dictates a strict assignment or quiz schedule for the class (my other class, I swear, Prof. J). Even with as many gas stations as there are, lines still form at the pumps when people do not follow the etiquette necessary when fueling. Sometimes I wish I could just slow everything down and not worry about my schedule, or being somewhere at a certain time. But I guess that is called a vacation.

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