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A white collar worker at the managerial level may find it difficult to market him or herself as unique outside of the corporate hierarchy after being downsized. Even physicians, plumbers, and other individuals that practice certain 'trades' may find their professions standardized and their skill's inherent worth downgraded, as franchised service industries become more popular. Jiffy Lube has replaced the independent mechanic just like Starbucks has replaced the corner coffee shop.
Another interesting point is the actual inefficiency of these supposedly efficient structures. Cars supposedly make it easier for us to travel long distances, yet we get caught in traffic jams. Fast food is cheap, yet much more expensive and less nutritious than if we made these foods at home. Fast food also makes us unhealthy, raising our healthcare costs. The demand for predictability saps our creative skills, what makes us uniquely human -- even our schools and colleges are becoming more standardized: from lecture notes that can be downloaded, to an increased emphasis on standardized testing. Supposedly, efficiency eliminates waste, but we as a society have become more wasteful than ever, in the wake of the need for such constant and conspicuous consumerism. Things are cheaper, so we spend more and are actually deeper in debt as we are more reliant upon impersonal corporate structures to provide us with necessities. Without computers, cell phones, processed foods, and maid services we cannot function. The reasons we do not see these inefficiencies as a society is that we have been taught not to see them by our own anesthetized familiarity with them, because of their predictability -- an Extra Value meal promises value, so we take McDonald's at its word, rather than try to experiment with home cooking.
Some of Ritzer's demonized aspects of corporate culture admittedly fall less comfortably into the McDonald's model. He also hates gyms, although taking responsibility for one's health and 'doing something' rather than simply passively sitting in front of a television screen on a couch does not seem so bad, even if gyms are fairly sterile and are full of televisions. For people without safe places to run and play, gyms may be the only alternative. Likewise, he hates 'safe' mountain climbing, although it does allow individuals to have an experience that before only a few professionals or top athletes could enjoy -- surely having the experience even in a limited form is better than watching a television program?
And in some aspects of life, standardization is a decided improvement -- standardized food safety rules, the fact that people can be reasonably sure that they will get the same dosage of medicine when they take a pill, airbags in cars, and other forms of quality control would not be possible without some mechanization and bureaucratic oversight in the form of public health boards and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, it is when these controls are ignored that corporate America gets 'in trouble,' as in the case with the recent contamination of peanut butter and peanut-related products that were manufactured at a poorly-inspected plant.
At the end of his book, Ritzer suggests a variety of strategies to cope with McDonaldization: one can accept it, one can add certain amounts of controlled unpredictability to one's life (going on adventure vacations, for example) or can strive to entirely 'buck the system,' and go radically 'green' and homemade. This latter strategy has become more popular, as green has evolved into a movement and a marketing technique. Yet although McDonald's is less culturally accepted and popular, but its sales figures continue to rise. The habit and ease offered by McDonaldization remains, even if the aggressive courting of children is now more controversial for the fast food giant.
This book is helpful in delineating how large corporate institutions change our lives, often without fully making us aware of it -- we have come to accept the fact that cooking is a rare skill, rather than something that everyone does. Cars are seen as a necessity, and the ethos of 'more is better' is taken for granted. An era where people knew how to sew, and customized things themselves, rather than bought things custom-made seems like another world, although for many of our grandparents it was a way of life. However, although Ritzer may be persuasive in many aspects of his work, we cannot turn back the clock, and most of us would not want to do without washing machines, or even the Internet, which has the power to connect radical thinkers even while it is admittedly dependant upon corporate structures for its existence. Modern technologies and bureaucracies clearly have the power to do us ill, but there is also the potential within them to be subversive, an idea that Ritzer is unwilling to acknowledge.
"George Ritzer." Ailun. April 16, 2009.
Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society. 5th edition. Thousand…[continue]
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