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There are several positive aspects of bureaucracies. They are intended to improve efficiency, ensure equal opportunities, and ensure that most people can be served. And there are times when rigid hierarchies are needed. But remember that many of our bureaucracies grew large at the same time that our school model was developed––during the Industrial Revolution. Young workers were trained, and organizations were built for mass production, assembly line work, and factory jobs. In these scenarios, a clear chain of command was critical. Now, in the information age, this kind of rigid training and adherence to protocol can actually decrease both productivity and efficiency.

Today’s workplace requires a faster pace, more problem solving, and a flexible approach to work. Too much adherence to explicit rules and a division of labor can leave an organization behind. And unfortunately, once established, bureaucracies can take on a life of their own. Maybe you have heard the expression “trying to turn a tanker around mid-ocean,” which refers to the difficulties of changing direction with something large and set in its ways. State governments and current budget crises are examples of this challenge. It is almost impossible to make quick changes, leading states to continue, year after year, with increasingly unbalanced budgets. Finally, bureaucracies, as mentioned, grew as institutions at a time when privileged white males held all the power. While ostensibly based on meritocracy, bureaucracies can perpetuate the existing balance of power by only recognizing the merit in traditionally male and privileged paths.

Michels (1911) suggested that all large organizations are characterized by the Iron Rule of Oligarchy     , wherein an entire organization is ruled by a few elites. Do you think this is true? Can a large organization be collaborative?

The front of a McDonald’s restaurant featuring Arabic writing is shown.
This McDonald’s storefront in Egypt shows the McDonaldization of society. (Photo courtesy of s_w_ellis/flickr)

The mcdonaldization of society

The McDonaldization of Society     (Ritzer 1993) refers to the increasing presence of the fast food business model in common social institutions. This business model includes efficiency (the division of labor), predictability, calculability, and control (monitoring). For example, in your average chain grocery store, people at the register check out customers while stockers keep the shelves full of goods and deli workers slice meats and cheese to order (efficiency). Whenever you enter a store within that grocery chain, you receive the same type of goods, see the same store organization, and find the same brands at the same prices (predictability). You will find that goods are sold by the pound, so that you can weigh your fruit and vegetable purchase rather than simply guessing at the price for that bag of onions, while the employees use a timecard to calculate their hours and receive overtime pay (calculability). Finally, you will notice that all store employees are wearing a uniform (and usually a name tag) so that they can be easily identified. There are security cameras to monitor the store, and some parts of the store, such as the stockroom, are generally considered off-limits to customers (control). While McDonaldization has resulted in improved profits and an increased availability of various goods and services to more people worldwide, it has also reduced the variety of goods available in the marketplace while rendering available products uniform, generic, and bland. Think of the difference between a mass-produced shoe and one made by a local cobbler, between a chicken from a family-owned farm and a corporate grower, or between a cup of coffee from the local diner and one from Starbucks.

Secrets of the mcjob

We often talk about bureaucracies disparagingly, and no organization takes more heat than fast food restaurants. Several books and movies, such as Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schossler, paint an ugly picture of what goes in, what goes on, and what comes out of fast food chains. From their environmental impact to their role in the U.S. obesity epidemic, fast food chains are connected to numerous societal ills. Furthermore, working at a fast food restaurant is often disparaged, and even referred to dismissively, as having a McJob rather than a real job.

But business school professor Jerry Newman went undercover and worked behind the counter at seven fast food restaurants to discover what really goes on there. His book, My Secret Life on the McJob , documents his experience. Unlike Schossler, Newman found that these restaurants offer much good alongside the bad. Specifically, he asserted that the employees were honest and hardworking, that management was often impressive, and that the jobs required a lot more skill and effort than most people imagined. In the book, Newman cites a pharmaceutical executive who says a fast-food service job on an applicant’s résumé is a plus because it indicates the employee is reliable and can handle pressure.

Businesses like Chipotle, Panera, and Costco attempt to combat many of the effects of McDonaldization. In fact, Costco is known for paying its employees an average of $20 per hour, or slightly more than $40,000.00 per year. Nearly 90% of their employees receive health insurance from Costco, a number that is unheard of in the retail sector.

While Chipotle is not known for high wages of its employees, it is known for attempting to sell high-quality foods from responsibly sourced providers. This is a different approach from what Schossler describes among burger chains like McDonalds.

So what do you think? Are these McJobs and the organizations that offer them still serving a role in the economy and people’s careers? Or are they dead-end jobs that typify all that is negative about large bureaucracies? Have you ever worked in one? Would you?

graph projecting the significantly increased employment rates in the fast food and food service industries by 2018.
Fast-food jobs are expected to grow more quickly than most industries. (Graph courtesy of U.S. BLS)

Summary

Large organizations fall into three main categories: normative/voluntary, coercive, and utilitarian. We live in a time of contradiction: while the pace of change and technology are requiring people to be more nimble and less bureaucratic in their thinking, large bureaucracies like hospitals, schools, and governments are more hampered than ever by their organizational format. At the same time, the past few decades have seen the development of a trend to bureaucratize and conventionalize local institutions. Increasingly, Main Streets across the country resemble each other; instead of a Bob’s Coffee Shop and Jane’s Hair Salon there is a Dunkin Donuts and a Supercuts. This trend has been referred to as the McDonaldization of society.

Short answer

What do you think about the recent spotlight on fast food restaurants? Do you think they contribute to society’s ills? Do you believe they provide a needed service? Have you ever worked a job like this? What did you learn?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Do you consider today’s large companies like General Motors, Amazon, or Facebook to be bureaucracies? Why, or why not? Which of the main characteristics of bureaucracies do you see in them? Which are absent?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Where do you prefer to shop, eat out, or grab a cup of coffee? Large chains like Walmart or smaller retailers? Starbucks or a local restaurant? What do you base your decisions on? Does this section change how you think about these choices? Why, or why not?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Further research

As mentioned above, the concept of McDonaldization is a growing one. The following link discusses this phenomenon further: (External Link)

References

Di Meglio, Francesca. 2007. “Learning on the McJob.” Bloomberg Businessweek , March 22. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Etzioni, Amitai. 1975. A Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations: On Power, Involvement, and Their Correlates . New York: Free Press.

Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates . Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Michels, Robert. 1949 [1911]. Political Parties . Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Newman, Jerry. 2007. My Secret Life on the McJob . New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ritzer, George. 1993. The McDonaldization of Society . Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

Schlosser, Eric. 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal . Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010–2011 Edition. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Weber, Max. 1968 [1922]. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretative Sociology . New York: Bedminster.

Questions & Answers

how does population affect the social and economy policy of a country
Emmanuel Reply
I need more understanding about sociology.
Olausi Reply
The first social scientist to use the term sociology was a Frenchman by the name of Auguste Comte who lived from 1798-1857. As coined by Comte, the term sociology is a combination of two words. The first part of the term is a Latin, socius- that may variously mean society, association, togetherness
sekou
what is social contracts
Yusuf
more explain
Olausi
what make sociology a science?
Nanzing
sociology is a science because it uses science methodology in arriving at it's finding
ANIH
what is the medical sociology
Krish Reply
correct cronology of study method suggested by August comte?
Aida Reply
sociology is a scientific discipline, what make it a science?
Nanzing
we use scientific mathods with facts and real observations to study the society
Batch
what is the medical sociology
Krish
I think it the study of Medical organisation or institution, how they work, their Mathods etc
Batch
what is sociological imagination?
Hamanta
it's a kind of imagination by which we can divert our mind or take us away from daily life routine surrounding society
Batch
in sociological imag. we think outside the box. we relate our problem with other or society as a whole. in this way we come to know that its not us who facing this problm infact others too facing it.
manisha
we also think in terms of others also. we view others pt. of view too.
manisha
Manisha 👍👍
Batch
thanks for the explanation
Batch
what is sociological alienation
Batch
alienation is we feel isolated from society. we gets aloof from society.
manisha
and what are reason behind it ?
Batch
according to august comte wats sociology
Deme
can some one clearly defined Sociology for me
Justin Reply
study of groups n group intetactions, societies n social interactions from small n personal groups to very large groups.
manisha
study of society and interaction among peoples...
Neelma
can any1 help me ..how to calculate percentile in individual series ..?
Madiha Reply
but I suppose ,I think you have olredy completed ua exams in June session final yr.
rameez
mam,madiha, checking out various videos availble on youTube may easily help you to solve ua problem.regards.
rameez
thnkx rameez sir for ur suggestions
Madiha
what was main reason behind Emile Durkheim’s book division of labour?
Neelma Reply
he wanted to say that division of labour i.e differences of jobs dont create problem in society or it doesnt affect moral beliefs infact it creates dependency on each other n set as binding glue.
manisha
many theorist were blaming including comte that division of labour creates problem in society like it destroy moral beliefs but emile Durkheim neglected this fact. he said it makes society together rather than affecting moral beliefs or any destruction.
manisha
even i feel division of labor dont create problem. every person have diff. potential so work of each other will be diff. and it doesnt create any difficulty.
manisha
how difference of job dont creat problem manisha can u give me an example as i cam understand properly ?
Neelma
division of labor happens in production process. like in industry. production has many steps. so work is alloted by dividing the work. one into manufacturing n other into packaging. its also happens acc. to specialisation.
manisha
so it helps in fast n proper production. so its good to divide work rather than all work done by one person.
manisha
ohh now i got it means divide one task or project in group of people .. who work on that project .. ie one building make by group of Labour's..? im i right? manisha
Neelma
yes right neelma. division of work in group.
manisha
thnks manisha for clear my concept
Neelma
hi everyone.
Khalid
so simple, diff people have different specializations - abilities, skill's, taste's, capabilities, talents thus work accordingly. thus this specialization of task's /jobs create interpendece btwn them. Had been all these people having diff talent's or skills giving same task thus have created simply
rameez
right rameez.
Khalid
Hey all! I'm a sociologist from Cyprus. This is the first time I'm writhing here! I'm glad of being part of the conversation! 😀
Marios
hi Marios Orphandies
Khalid
hi. I'm very happy to be here I like sociology but idont have any concept about jobs if I . have finished my sociology which job i. will do and how is availability of job this field thanks
Hasan
mess / problems within the system. For eg. if cobbler or blacksmith is asked to treat a patient n prescribe sm medicine, or if doctor is asked to make shoe or play circket. will they do their work properly
rameez
The answer is no. Thus specialization of task's solves problems .
rameez
can any1 tell me how 2 calculate percentile in individual series ? what is formula for that ?
Madiha
um not sure Madiha, I think total sum of series in percentile divided by total no. of series.
rameez
you are so intelligent why don't you consult you book. Anyway thank. .......
rameez
s
rameez
not mentioned in my book...thats y
Madiha
oh sad na..but bt your book was typing error..I simply meant book....And yes if had been mentioned in ua book,you wouldn't have asked... so simple.. commonsense.
rameez
welcome always n Allah bless
rameez
cyprus is so beautiful i just checked out on google.
manisha
Google nice. Baramulla is also beautiful you know.
rameez
ok nature is always beautiful
manisha
beauty lies in the eye's of beholder. what i mean beauty of the nature doesn't mean anything if people are not.
rameez
am I right Manisha
rameez
and thank you so much, Manisha for being here ,for a while I thought buddy, it was Madiha talking abt Cyprus.
rameez
what cyprus ? rameez sir
Madiha
I meant it was you talking about Cyprus is so beautiful.
rameez
no.. manisha mam was talking abt that..
Madiha
i thought....// n nothing bye
rameez
yeah.
rameez
yes beauty lies in eyes. :)
manisha
philosophy talks also exist here with sociology in this app.
manisha
:)
manisha
barmulla is so beautiful.
manisha
yes Manushi Heart of paradise Kashmir.
rameez
it means according durkhim people should work according to their abilty ? but manisha is saying that people should work combiney on one project ?
Neelma
she doesn't mean nor she is saying and infact it's you brother who is talking or have included word project in ua statement.
rameez
and even if people are working on one project doesn't mean they are having diff abilities.Its also specialization of work. as per abilities
rameez
for eg many laborers working in construction of building also need few carpenters , few masions, few electrictions, and few other person's viz skilled in bathroom/water fittings , cutting of mirror's, few painters and so on. Hope you will get ua answer now.
rameez
yess thanku .. i got it :)
Neelma
itz ok brother. God bless
rameez
sister :) not brother ..
Neelma
sister.. proof get ua Xerox ready of ID, Adhaar card,ration card, Fcbk Id, wtsap,insta.telegram n so on.till provisionally accepted.
rameez
:)
Neelma
nothing to say brother ..
Neelma
Hello
Ahsan
Can anyone help me with the the answer, what are concepts given by Merton and explain them briefly....?
Dyuti
In own opinion what do sociologist say about working abroad?
Jerald Reply
i dont know abt sociologist. if someone is rich and can afford to move to other country then its his wish. moving to another country will surely be adventures. many Indians r there in abroad working n living there.
manisha
by the way where r u from?
manisha
Zambia
Julia
hi julia. m from india.
manisha
ok
Julia
Those it also mean that in the animal kingdom, their society is structured so as to suit the male lions of having the first share. and how do you explain the difference in behavior between the male and female dogs
Ofei Reply
what can i do after MA in slciolagy
TANTRAY Reply
Think about pursuing Mphil... and then Phd....
besides higher studies, you can go for SET/NET/ICMR/ exams in sociology for bright future. sociology is also good subject for state/union civil service's. Additionally you can also pursui various jobs in social welfare dept.or in social service wd various NGO's.
rameez
how is studies going on guyz?
manisha
much better
zahoor
not so well mam Manisha.!
rameez
life seems so boring n alienating coz of the biased , capitalist/ materialistic system.
rameez
enjoy the scenery of Kashmir dude.
manisha
I too feel so buddy.
rameez
but sometimes even the scenery is alienating..making us feeling like alone alone sad sad
rameez
don't know why..!
rameez
it happens. if we feel sadness to its deepest core, we feel light. it shouldnt be repressed. just feel it n live it. it will go fade away
manisha
yes indeed but i don't think it should go away . Even the feeling is worth everlasting
rameez
and thank you
rameez
it is better to go for professional subjects than academic subjects
Ruhullah
life is both sadness n happiness
manisha
perhaps..okay gd nt All
rameez
sociology is arts or science? any one tell us about this?
zahoor Reply
sociology is a abstract science. it is humanistic social science. in 19 century sociology emerged as separate social science in europe.
manisha
nice Q Lt me try.
rameez
sociology , speaking strictly stand's btwn the too when comparison is wd natural sciences. since human motives, emotions, meanings can't be tested , weighted or measured, as object's are observed or studied in natural sciences..
rameez
hmm it shouldn't be science. as science has one fact n one conclusion. and here every other theorist saying different things. it is denoted as science because of the fact that it do scientific study of observation n its on assumptions basis do research analysis.
manisha
however it must be noted sociology has nothing do wd emotions or imagenation. it has its own systematic body of knowledge in the form of various concept's, ideas,theories n methodology to observe the social world thus can described as a science rather social science trying as much as scientific as p
rameez
To give importance also theorist described it as science. i.e why it is not pure science rather an abstract science.
manisha
thus it can be described as a scientific discipline as it involves systematic methods of investigation, the analysis of data,and the assesment of theories in the light of evidence or logical argument.
rameez
It is a social science. There is no other explaination to it. Social science is different than natural and physical sciences. Social science subject matter is men living in a social setup.
Sadiq
both of you are right.
rameez
however Manisha its neither pure nor abstract coz of it's it's own theories, concept's.... systematic approach, methodology.... etc etc blah blah.. thus stands sm whr btwn the .two
rameez
we have to write whats given in textbook to get pass. hehe but u right its not science.
manisha
Not science.🙄 but it's science manu
rameez
social sc.😉😊
rameez
In simple terms we study the Structure and function of a Society, the way it changes and develops. Now this is a life long process. Society have its organs which emerge, grows and defunct.
Sadiq
thanks for ur contribution
Abubakar
thanks to all for help
zahoor
guys im new here can anyone assist on functiinalismm pespective
Nigel
they see the society as an organism and humans are the organ...we all have certain function... the function to keep the organism alive...(in sociology term social order) so the functionalist looks through functional approach...
functional word means to functions. ie. what society functions. it can be described with the help of human body. like we have different organs n each organs..ear eyes etc has its own functions and in the same way society has its own social units and each units has some function.
manisha
with this structure word is also added ie. structural functionalism. structure is types of organs n functional is their function
manisha
like body is associated with systematic forms ie. in structure form and also each organs has some functions. both structure n function cannot be isolated. so to solve problem in society structure n function is taken into consideration.
manisha
before 2nd world war there was functional approach and after that structural functional approach came.
manisha
emile durkheim given the solid form to functional perspective. credit of it was given to him. in his book he mentioned it ie. rule of labor division n method of sociology.
manisha
functional perspective watches society's function. what is it that binds society n how organisation group generates result.
manisha
m i right?
manisha
very nice manisha well defined :)
Neelma
there r other theorist also who uses this perspective ie. Spencer, parson, malinowski, radcliff brown etc. parsons concept is also famous in this.
manisha
:) well today only i studied this so abled to explained it.
manisha
Good Manisha tiwari.
rameez
but better for Nigel was to go first through some reading's..( this app. or Google)and then to submit query.
rameez
and then we should also welcome n love to address queries. isn't it Manisha t. or am I wrong.?
rameez
100 percent right CPT scholar haha
rameez
just going through study. not a scholar. i m studying after 6 years. i completed my grads in 2012 in bmm from mumbai university. now started studing again after my marriage in jodhpur from distance edu but feel good here and gets feeling of college here :)
manisha
nice mam may I know your good name
rameez
i am pastor Samuel Sesay, from Liberia, west Africa.
logan
ok pastor samuel. and rameez what will u do with name. manisha name is enough to address me.
manisha
okay mam. mbishnio, (jus y, n)
rameez
ok ,sure thank you Manisha
rameez
manisha peshwa malviya
manisha
what is the meaning and scope of sociology ?
Ome Reply
Sociology is composed of 2 words :socius, meanining companion or association and logos meaning science or study .Thus the etymological meaning of sociology is the science of society . Auguste comte ,a frenchman is considered to be the father of sociology , hr coined this term in 1839 ...
Madiha
There are 2 main schools of thought regarding the scope of sociology : 1.The formalistic or specialistic 2.The synthetic school
Madiha
Formalistic school hav the opinion that sociology is a pure and independent science . As a pure it has a limited scope.
Madiha
synthetic school wants to make sociology a general social sci. and not a pure or special social sci.
Madiha
i Am Studying Msc Sociology Aiou 3rd Semester I will help you Support you Giving You Notes & Books in Urdu
Kamran
systematic study of society and culture
Muzafar
Helo i need socilogy notes. plzz some body help me ..
Neelma
sociology notes of ignou available on mrunal sociology notes site.
manisha
manisha can u shere the link ?
Neelma
what type of notes you need @mehwish
waqas
what is social research
Baba
just type mrunal sociology notes u will get. link sharing is prohibited here.
manisha
i have to prepare for the spcs test ..
Neelma
thanku manisha
Neelma
just type mrunal sociology notes u will get. link sharing is prohibited here.
manisha
its ok neelma.
manisha
by the way if socius means companion or association.. how come, sociology then means sc. of society.!!!?
rameez
the word socius gives rise to the word society ...
Madiha
principles of sociology with introduction to social thought ...by C.N .Shankar Rao ..p.no.18..
Madiha
dt is it..Good smhw agreed ...
rameez
What is thesis
soram Reply
Thesis is a type of essay,in which writer highlighted briefly their observation and experiment.....
Akak
sociology a brief introduction by Richard T.Schefer
anzilena Reply
How does traditional religion serve as a social control mechanism in your country
Daniel Reply
How does religion serve as a social control mechanism in your country
Daniel

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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