What are the major contemporary theories of globalization? What is McDonaldization?

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astrocourt | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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I'll discuss McDonaldization.

McDonaldization was a term coined by George Ritzer to describe the sociological phenomenon of rationalization. The process itself pre-dates McDonalds restaurants, with the production lines of the Henry Ford factory.

The basis of McDonaldization is that every task can be rationalized, broken down to the simplest possible level. These micro-tasks are then performed by the most efficient method--all other methods are discarded. The result is an extremely efficient, logical progression of processes.

This process has flow-on effects in terms of the control, calculability, and predicability of the production line. McDonaldization often also includes replacing a human workforce with automation. However, one must be careful of over-rationalization.

The ideas of McDonaldization have moved from fast-food chains to broader social constructs and corporations. For example, cashiers at a supermarket have barcodes scanned and prices computed by a computer. Now, self-serve check outs are replacing the cashiers themselves.

As a result of McDonaldization, skill-sets and (non-western) cultural practices are replaced by automation. But consumer patterns become more unified.

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teachsuccess's profile pic

teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are three major contemporary theories of globalization:

1) Homogenization Theory

This theory recognizes a uniform standard for world cuisine, tourism, culture, consumption patterns, and cosmopolitanism. An example of homogenization theory is George Ritzer's McDonaldization of Society.

He theorizes that global expectations of McDonalds restaurants are predicated on four dimensions (efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control) and three forces. The three forces are economic aspirations of the public, sensitivity to societal changes (where mobility and efficiency are highly valued factors in success), and the American appetite for an iconic brand.

The four dimensions:

a) Efficiency

The stream-lined process of McDonaldization in terms of consumer food preparation has influenced global trends in shopping, dieting, healthcare, and even entertainment. For example, consumers can now down diet pills to lose weight, shop on the Internet instead of queuing in long lines, watch Netflix movies instead of going to the cinema, and listen to audio recordings of books instead of reading them.

b) Calculability

Each McDonalds meal is a product of a quantifiable process. This just means that each step of the preparation is defined by a uniform and unchanging standard. Likewise, the Mcdonaldization of global society leads to the ascendance of quantity over quality; for example, each student's college financial aid package is predicated on standardized SAT or ACT scores. Highers scores tend to earn a student more attractive scholarship packages. This process almost always marginalizes other student achievement in classroom work, volunteer service, extracurricular activities, or even military service, although it does not completely discount these factors.

c) Predictability

The public appreciates the consistency and inherent dependability of the McDonalds brand.

d) Control

Non-human technology controls both the customer and the McDonalds worker. For example, the food ordering process places structural constraints on customers. They have to order food based on a predetermined process, just like pilots are required to depend upon on-board computers to guide the landing and taking-off process. In short, McDonaldization is all about the system that is in place.

In summary, the Mcdonaldization/homogenization theory marries a 'globalization of nothing' with a 'glocalization of something.' The globalization of nothing refers to the introduction of a standardized, foreign food process which means nothing to a local culture. This is combined with the 'glocalization of something,' which further solidifies the extent and influence of McDonaldization culture through the customization of menus based on local preferences and customs. For example, McDonalds restaurants in India provide local vegetarian options in its menu. Here are examples and descriptions of international McDonalds customized menus.

2) Heterogenization Theory

This theory recognizes the multi-cultural influences of various global movements. It celebrates the significance and effectiveness of a multitude of trends while acknowledging the benefits unique to one's culture.

An example of this theory is the colonization process, which has left previous colonized nations with both local customs and preferences existing side by side with the Western cultural norms of the former imperial power. Many Commonwealth nations, previously British colonies, still hold onto characteristically British customs such as teatime, for example. Where the English teatime crumpets and toast are served with tea, former colonies such as Malaysia combine both English and local treats. Malaysia's Eurasian population (usually Dutch, English, or Portuguese mixed with Asian parentage) serve such local delicacies as shrimp sambal sandwiches alongside more typically English options such as watercress sandwiches during tea-time.

3) Hybridization Theory

This theory recognizes the fusion or integration of various global trends as necessary to global cohesion and is open to constantly evolving standards for consumption and societal expectation.

This theory effectively combines both the homogenization and heterogenization theories, leading to a complex and unique blend of both, but is neither global nor local in their essence. An example of this theory is the blending of various races (in what used to be termed the crime of miscegenation in various cultures) resulting in unique, racially diverse demographic areas. We can see this in the Middle East, Northern Africa, America, and Eastern Europe.

The hybridization theory is then a post-modern view which seeks to eliminate all barriers based on purity creeds and out-dated racial theories. This may explain the global fascination with American culture and the charisma inherent in American music, movies, and fashion. For example, the popular TV series Heroes and its new sequel, Heroes Reborn, combines a diverse, multi-ethnic and international cast. The producers have utilized a unique blend of diversity (in its cast) to tell a story relevant to all cultures. This is hybridization theory at its best and it is emerging as an important part of the global narrative.

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