In 1993 George Ritzer first published his first edition of "The Mcdonaldization of society". In principal it drew on the works of Weber and Mannheim, in the rationalisation of modern society, but brought stark examples of this happening in today's society. He uses the analogy that like fast food chain Macdonald's ,where everything is standardised, controlled, calculable, predicable and efficient, society is taking on these values and slowly rationalising society hence the term "Mcdonaldization" . I will critically evaluate this theory put forward by Ritzer.Firstly it is important to define what Ritzer means by Mcdonaldization, in his book1 he states that he uses McDonalds restaurants as a paradigm for the process of the modern rationalisation, hence the term Mcdonaldization.

It involves the increase in efficiency, calculability, predictability and control via the increased use of non-human technology. He admits this has advantages but also many important drawbacks including homogeneity, dehumanisation of society. It is these irrationalities of rationality's that Ritzer sees at the heart of Mcdonaldization. It is the four principal areas of Mcdonaldization Efficiency, Control, predictability and calcubilityWeber thought that socialism would rationalise society forming an iron-cage2 of regulation which people could not escape, so he sided with capitalism because he thought it would only rationalise bit by bit and this would make it easier for people to escape the "cage".

Ritzer on the other hand thinks that the "cage" is being built by rationalisation brought about by capitalism, and that the scourge of rationalisation is seeping into schools and everyday life, repressing individuality and independent thought, and building this "iron cage" slowly but sufficiently for people not to notice. Chapter 2 in Ritzer's book is even called "From the iron cage to the fast food factory".Another rationalisation theorist Mannheim believed that eventually people would learn to self-regulate3 and self-rationalise so therefore not needing the guiding hand of institutions, and thus the societal wide rationalisation would take place without thought. This is what Ritzer's theory draws on, he states that the self-rationalisation is growing rapidly in society and uses McDonalds as an example of the extent of this growth.

The first feature of Mcdonaldization Ritzer states is efficiency. He states "The choice of the optimum means to an end" is efficiency for the owner of the means of production or the firm, but highly inefficient for the customer. For example he sees the element of "unpaid work" a huge problem, this is where a customer may place packaging in the bin after eating the contents in McDonalds, this should be done by paid members of staff not the unpaid customer. This element of behaviour can easily be explained by courtesy, most people can see the demeaning jobs people do within McDonalds and so subconsciously help them by putting their mess away and not having someone do it for them.

This is the first problem with Ritzer's theory, if a firm paid staff just to clean up he would call it "exploitation in McJobs" but if a customer does it he criticises it as "unpaid labour". There is a no win situation for the firm. He sites similar examples form Petrol stations and the home use of phone directories, but the same problem can be levelled at both citations.The self-rationalisation and mobility of this aspect of efficiency can be shown by the use of Microwaves, we are so obsessed, he says, with Mcdonaldizing our lives that we buy more so called "efficient" ways of preparing food, but they result is poor diets of microwaveable junk food.

This is a useful point about rationalisation of eating habits, but the Microwave is an incredibly useful and quick way of cooking food for people who might not have time to cook a proper meal. Also Ritzer assumes people are ignorant about nutritional values and diet, an assumption that is hard to believe.The next aspect of Mcdonaldization is calculability. "Mcdonaldization relies on things that can be calculated, counted, quantified" In this chapter Ritzer talks about the obsession rationalisation is bringing with it of being able to put everything into numbers. He starts with the McDonalds restaurant explaining how everything is quantified and regulated so it can essentially be controlled and managed easily. This is a common aspect of any large scale operation and accountable system.

If McDonalds didn't quantify everything that it sold it would waste a tremendous amount of food and have higher levels of customer complaints about portion's.But this is not the problem according to Ritzer the problem is that calculability leads to quantity replacing quality, so if a customer sees "Big Mac" they assume that it is better quality and this is leading customers to look for price and quantity first, before they look at quality. Ritzer says as self-rationalisation happens calculability is spreading across society. I fully agree with this statement and point at the example of Aston business school. The business school is recruiting more and more students without the proper facilities, simply because bigger numbers are rewarded by the government in terms of bigger funding, although this seem rational it leads to irrationalities as Ritzer warns.

Students are taught via video links and miss out on the one to one contact and the opportunity to ask questions etc.The use of multiple choice examinations and the tick box answer sheets that can be read by non-human technology and leave no room of qualitative answers, a grade or percentage can be generated in seconds and without any questions of accuracy. Grades are given to teaching standards and published along with exam results, schools are left with the dilemma of "publish or perish" as Ritzer states. As schools that don't publish such results are looked badly upon by parents who naturally want the best school for their children. People are judged on credit ratings for jobs4, movie ratings are used to judge what some see as "art", preliminary selections for interview are done on academic grades and politicians are encouraged to give short TV friendly sound-bytes. I fully agree with this point and was characterised when recently William Hague recently said any conservative policy must be able to be summed up in on six words or less.

This obsession with calculability is weakening our society and not allowing for independent thought.Predictability is the next area of Mcdonaldization we are suffering from according to Ritzer. Mcdonaldization seeks to make all areas of society predictable, so that no surprises exist in life and everything can be planned for. He sites the example of Motel's and again McDonalds and criticises them for being predictable in their layout, facilities, menu, and service. Even right down to scripts that employees use for interaction with customers.

But this is what customers want, they don't want to go into a restaurant and not know if there will be baby changing facilities, seating, drive through or a certain type of food. They want to know in advance so they can the make the decision of where to go.I have personally experienced the scripts of McDonalds and I have come to the conclusion that they don't exist to the extent which Ritzer states. I have friends who work in McDonalds restaurants and although they are taught what to say to difficult customers and how to greet them etc, but they are simply not stuck to and managers don't enforce this.

This, as I will explain later is my main problem in relating with Ritzer's theory, is the problem of exporting the Mcdonaldization thesis. Ritzer fails to provide in this chapter any credible links with society for this aspect of rationalisation. I think that the implementation of the predictability aspect of rationalisation is to do with the natural human response of oversion to the unknown. If Ritzer stated that this was the case but rationalisation was increasing this oversion it would make more sense but he doesn't make this clear.Predictability is only possible via control of the environment and employees.

This is the final aspect of Rationalisation that Ritzer identifies. The firm needs to control employees, so it employs young adults (16-24), over 70% of McDonalds employees fit this age bracket. This is because young people are more like to accept controlling managers and unorthodox practices like scripting. But this not enough for Mcdonaldization and the use of non-human technologies is wide spread and offers something unique to the process, they don't answer back, ask for pay rises, sleep or stop, they can produce standardised output exactly right in terms of size, weight and content.

Unfortunately they take over jobs previously held by humans. Jobs that can't be mechanised are broken down into menial tasks so that they can interact with the machines, and be more easily controlled, and the aspect of a mistake or malicious action minimised. For example cash register fraud is prevented by having buttons for each item that tell the computer the correct amount to register. Controlling customers is another Mcdonaldization trait, forcing customers to leave quickly by providing uncomfortable seating. But this surely is inevitable in any restaurant that may serve thousand of people a day, customers must leave quickly in order to accommodate others.Ritzer states bureaucracy is the manifestation of control outside the area of fast food.

The amount of formal procedures, forms, systems we have to deal with is increasing in everyday life all of them seeking to control different aspects of our behaviour. Although it appears to be logical and prevent things like fraud and errors in judgement bureaucracy slows down simple decision and prevents a progressive society. This deters many from existing within a system, like for instance the police force who spend a huge amount of time doing paperwork when they could be out preventing crime, the same can be said for healthcare. This is the irrationality of rationality. Ritzer explains this well within Mcdonaldization.

The main problem I think Ritzer faces with this book is the essence of his idea of relating all of societies problems with a fast food industry that most people spend probably only 20 minutes a week within. It seems strange that such a small part of our lives affects everything we come into contact with. There is little doubt that rationalisation is occurring but is the fast food industry to blame?. Ritzer uses very emotive language in the book, for example when he talks about unpaid labour, in relation to paying a cashier for the petrol he says the customer is forced to "trek up to the booth".

This depletes his cause to some extent, and he over stresses good points about rationalisation and makes them seem trivial.It seems that rationalisation Is an inevitable product of overpopulation. If thousands of people all want to be fed in one place during a common lunch hour the only way to do it is to standardise, calculate and control that place so it acts to serve everyone effectively. If thousands of people want to go to university, forms need to be filled in and records kept. Ritzer does not offer a suitable alternative to the problems that Mcdonaldization presents, sure things could be done it different ways but would the system be able to serve the customer as well as it currently does?.

The self-rationalisation and mobility of rationalisation is where the main problem lies because in the US there are very few laws regarding customer confidentiality, workers rights, companies and advertising. Mcdonaldization has grown out of American culture and therefore satisfies it needs and isn't questioned on the whole, by the population, but when it tries to seep out into the society and therefore the international environment it is stopped by un-accepting culture and different values coming from mainly objective observation.In Ritzer's follow on book "The Mcdonaldization Thesis" he argues that there is an "American way of eating" he uses the example of the McDonalds apple pie being wrapped up in pastry and therefore being easy to eat with one hand and no cutlery being used. This idea is strange for most Europeans as most have a different relationship with food, taking hours to prepare meals and to socialise while eating is considered the norm.

Recently McDonalds in Italy has been the subject of many attacks against it's American values and supposed imperialism, on October 16th known as anti-McDonalds day there were 4255 protests and pickets in 347 towns in 23 countries.This clearly shows the Mcdonaldization of other countries is very difficult. Europeans look at the US very critically and see the faults of Mcdonaldization and the problems it has brought and I think it is learning from those problems. Laws to do with customer confidentiality, advertising and companies activities are much stricter in Europe, for example advertising aimed at children is illegal in Sweden, clear a barriers to Mcdonaldization exist like this much more in Europe, mainly to do with the states role in society.