The Concept of ‘McDonaldization’ and its Four Principles

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In discussing the concept of McDonaldization, a term and concept developed by George Ritzer, it is vital to understand the principles from which this concept is rooted. Further understanding of McDonaldization meant understanding the principles of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control prevalent in most enterprises and organizations at present. Applying these four principles in the context of existing industries is essential to provide insights on how McDonaldization has invaded the lives of people, specifically as human society embarks into the postmodern period. The following discussion of the four principles of McDonaldization demonstrated the path towards increased deskilling and depersonalization of work and interaction among people in the present, postmodern society.

The first principle, efficiency, is defined as the process through which an individual or organization ‘chooses the optimum means to a given end.’ By this, Ritzer meant that an individual or institution will make full use of a resource until it has equally or more than served its purpose. Moreover, efficiency is the adaptation of best practices in a particular task or activity, and this best practice is implemented to generate greater benefit from the accomplished task or activity. A popular and prevalent example of this principle is the practice of online shopping, or shopping through the Internet. In online shopping, stores do not have to set up a physical store in order to sell their merchandise to the consumer. A ‘virtual store’ would suffice, wherein a picture of the product / merchandise, price, shipping details, and other vital information are indicated and made available to the consumer. Online shopping is an efficient form of sales and marketing because it does not require too much capital in terms of physically setting up the store. On the part of the customer, s/he saves effort and time by just browsing through web pages to buy the merchandise or products that s/he needs.

The second principle, calculability, pertains to the quantified nature of products or services offered to consumers. This practice is not only popular to enterprises that sell consumer goods, but it is also a popular practice in the services sector. Productivity of an employee in a communications center may be determined through a system wherein the number of calls received and dialed are monitored. In addition to this measure, an individual’s productivity may also be assessed through the number of hours spent working in the office, determined through a time-keeping system.

The third principle, predictability is the implementation of standard behavior and actions, in order to make tasks faster and easier to conduct. This principle is evident in the adoption of standardized, formalized greetings that salespeople are encouraged to memorize as they greet, deal with, and thank customers after shopping in a mall, store, or boutique. The standard greeting is a sign of the predictability of customer service in almost all industries today.

Lastly, the principle of control is best reflected in the assembly-type system of division of labor in most companies today. From factory workers who are tasked to do a specific task the whole day, to service personnel expected to practice only one field of expertise (sales, marketing, accounting, etc.), control of the individual’s skills and knowledge is widely-practiced and encouraged at the expense of the individual’s self-development.