American Culture

Coda: resisting McDonaldization…

There are ways of resisting McDonaldization. They require some effort, and not all will be doable at once. But resistance is vital if we hope to reclaim the humanity of our human institutions and interactions.

“The system is run by the few with the few as the main beneficiaries. Most of the people in the world have no say in these systems and are either not helped or are adversely affected by them.” – George Ritzer

Part 6 of a series

We’re all living in McDonald’s world (image courtesy LinkedIn)

The range of the standardized, bureaucratic system embodied in McDonald’s is now an immense web in which almost every American is enmeshed. The power of McDonaldization is now so great that for many people resisting the roles defined for us by McDonaldized business and institutional models feels, if not impossible, so difficult and time consuming (inefficient and unpredictable, not to mention difficult to calculate and hard to control) as to seem not worth the effort.

So, the vast majority of us continue to submit ourselves, if not willingly then unresistingly, to McDonaldized systems. From our daily activities of shopping and dining to our most important decisions such as obtaining health care and education, we are, all too often, faced with capitulating to McDonaldization to meet our life needs. We buy our morning coffee from the chain outlet, check and bag our own purchases from a big box store, go to the immediate care facility to get our sprained ankle treated. These behaviors are our first, sometimes our only, options. But most of use realize that such behaviors drain us of our humanity and individuality bit by bit. And we wish there were other possibilities.

There are ways of resisting McDonaldization. They require some effort, and not all will be doable at once. But resistance is vital if we hope to reclaim the humanity of our human institutions and interactions.

Here are a few possible ways of beginning to resist. While we may not be able to practice all of these right away, beginning with any is a step towards re-humanizing our interactions with the world:

  • Seek out restaurants that use real china and metal utensils; avoid those that use materials such as Styrofoam that adversely affect the environment.
  • When dialing a business, always choose the “voice mail” option that permits you to speak to a real person.
  • The next time a minor medical or dental emergency leads you to think of a “McDoctor” or a “McDentist,” resist the temptation and go instead to your neighborhood doctor or dentist, preferably one in solo practice.
  • Avoid Hair Cuttery, SuperCuts, and other hair-cutting chains; go instead to a local barber or hairdresser.
  • Frequent a local café or deli. For dinner, again at least once a week, stay home, unplug the microwave, avoid the freezer, and cook a meal from scratch.
  • Try to live in an atypical environment, preferably one you have built yourself or have had built for you. If you must live in an apartment or a tract house, humanize and individualize it.
  • Avoid classes with short-answer tests graded by computer. If a computer-graded exam is unavoidable, make extraneous marks and curl the edges of the exam so that the computer cannot deal with it.
  • Seek out small classes; get to know your professors. (List items courtesy plosin.com)

The McDonaldization of our economy and institutions was, as this series has tried to explain, an evolutionary process over many decades. Our recovery from its effects can only commence once we consciously begin to act in ways that resist its reach into our lives. Freeing ourselves from the convenience and control of McDonaldization might take time, but the pleasure of living lives less calculated, efficient and predictable will surely be ample compensation.

2 replies »

  1. I’m continually surprised by how many people don’t cook their own food. In the case of my family, we have enough food allergies that it’s usually easier to cook from scratch than it is to buy pre-made food. Healthier and usually tastier too. And my wife and I both enjoy cooking. I often find it a relaxing way to recover from stressful days at work.

    Sure, we eat at McDonalds and other fast food joints on road trips, especially the long driving days. But we also try to eat at local restaurants, or at least places we can’t find at home, whenever we can. The fewer chains (or the more local), the better. Local bookstores instead of Borders. One of my wife’s favorite stops is small local yarn shops (she claims that souvenir yarn doesn’t count against her yarn budget), and we came across one last summer that even I thought was cool (something about having Dungeons & Dragons figures in the window and Doctor Who sock yarn and a knitted TARDIS).

    Thanks for the series.

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