Consumption patterns and lifeworlds using the example of convenience food

Bachelor Thesis, 2010

66 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents


Part I: Consumption and Sociology
Definition of the field of study
Emergence of sociology of consumption

Part II: Why do we eat what we eat?
The Social Construction of Taste
Weberian rationalities

Part III: Empirical Analysis


The first conce In this Bachelor-thesis the consumption of convenience food of German households is analysed from the perspective of sociology of consumption. At first three theoretical conceptions are presented and discussed which serve as a basis for the empirical analysis that is undertaken later.option is made up by Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of consumption behaviour of the French society in the 1960s. His book, Distinction: A Social Critique of Taste, shall be seen as the methodological starting point for the later empirical research. Following Bourdieu’s findings, this led to the question whether substantial class differences in the consumption of convenience food are detectable in German society. George Ritzer’s thesis, The McDonaldization of Society, and its key terms Efficiency, Calculability, Predictability, and Control further argue in favour for the choice of convenience food. The third theoretical pillar is the conception of lifeworld and its development in the field of philosophy and sociology. The empirical part uses an arrangement of German households in family lifeworlds, as it is also done by the German Society for Consumer Research. The analysed empirical data on purchasing behaviour was provided by the market research study Typology of Desires 2010.

After analysis based on standing in society, phase of life, and household composition, “Students/ Apprentices” and “Unemployed/ Working Poor” resulted as the lifeworlds with the strongest consumption of convenience food. The initial question in the direction of a social determination of consumption of convenience food must be negated. Instead can be argued that consumption is strongly determined by the phase of life, and partially by social status in society and household composition.


Dal punto di vista della sociologia del consumo, in questa tesi viene analizzato il consumo di cibi pronti nei nuclei familiari tedeschi. Innanzitutto vengono presentati e discussi tre concetti sui quali si basano le analisi empiriche piú tardi. Il primo concetto si basa sull’analisi del comportamento del consumo della società francese degli anni 1960, di Pierre Bourdieu. Il suo libro, La distinzione: Critica sociale del gusto, presenta il punto di partenza metodologico per ulteriori investigazioni empiriche. I risultati di Bourdieu posero la questione, se sostanziali differenze di consumo tra le classi nella società tedesca sono attualmente presenti. La tesi di George Ritzer sulla McDonaldizzazione della societá insieme alle sue nozioni di Efficienza, Calcolabilit à, Prevedibilit à e Controllo servono come giustificazione per la scelta di cibi pronti come oggetto della ricerca. Il terzo pilastro é il concetto del mondo della vita e il suo sviluppo nel campo della filosofia e sociologia. L’investigazione empirica si serve della classificazione dei nuclei familiari tedeschi in mondi della vita-familiare, come viene anche usata dalla Società Tedesca della Ricerca del Consumo. I dati empirici usati sul comportamento dell’acquirente sono stanziati dallo studio di ricerca sul mercato Tipologia dei Bisogni 2010. In base all’analisi sulla posizione nella società, fase della vita e composizione dei nuclei familiari, “Studenti/ Apprendisti” e “Disoccupati/ Workin poor” risultavano come mondi della vita con un consumo più forte di cibi pronti.

La domanda iniziale sulla determinazione sociale del consumo di cibi pronti deve essere negata. Contrariamente, si può affermare che il consumo é fortmente determinato dalla fase di vita, e parzialmente dallo status sociale e dalla composizione dei nuclei familiari.


In dieser Bachelor-Arbeit wird der Konsum von Fertignahrung von deutschen Haushalten konsumsoziologisch analysiert. Zunächst werden hierzu drei theoretische Konzeptionen vorgestellt und erörtert, auf die die späteren empirischen Analysen sich stützen. Die erste Konzeption besteht in Pierre Bourdieus Analysen des Konsumverhaltens der Französischen Gesellschaft aus den 1960er Jahren. Dessen Buch, Die Feinen Unterschiede: Kritik der gesellschaftlichen Urteilskraft stellt den methodologischen Ausgangspunkt für spätere empirische Nachforschungen dar. Bourdieus Ergebnisse führen zur Fragestellung, ob sich substanzielle Klassenunterschiede im Konsum von Fertignahrung in der deutschen Gesellschaft finden. George Ritzers These der McDonaldisierung der Gesellschaft dient mit seinen Schlüsselbegriffen Effizienz, Berechenbarkeit, Vorhersehbarkeit, und Kontrolle weiterhin der Anwendung auf das Thema der Fertignahrung. Eine dritte Säule ist das Konzept der Lebenswelt und seine Entwicklung im Feld der Philosophie und Soziologie. Die empirische Untersuchung bedient sich einer Einteilung deutscher Haushalte in Familien- Lebenswelten, wie sie auch in der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung Verwendung finden. Die benutzen empirischen Daten des Kaufverhaltens werden dabei durch die Marktforschungsstudie Typologie der W ü nsche 2010 bereitgestellt. Nach Analysen basierend auf dem Stand in der Gesellschaft, Lebensphase und Haushaltszusammensetzung, resultierten „ Studenten/ Auszubildende “ und „ Arbeitslose/ Working Poor “ als die Lebenswelten mit dem stärksten Konsum von Fertignahrung. Die Ausgangsfrage nach einer sozialen Determinierung des Konsums von Fertignahrung muss auf Grund der Daten negiert werden. Im Gegensatz dazu kann gesagt werden, dass der Konsum stark durch die Lebensphase, und teilweise durch den Sozialstatus in der Gesellschaft sowie durch die Haushaltszusammensetzung, bestimmt ist.


If someone ever stayed in the supermarket catching a glimpse in the other persons’ shopping baskets, questions such as “Why does this person buy these things?” or “What is the reason that I consume different aliments than the other does?” may have arisen. In the framework of this thesis it will be shed light on a question whose response does not have solely impact on sociology of consumption but also on topics different from sociology regarding the coherence of social origin and consumption behaviour.

In the first part, I spread out the relation of sociology and consumption. At first in a literal understanding and at next its development as a subfield of sociology. The second part constitutes the basis for deeper empirical analysis. Foundations are laid by Bourdieu and Ritzer and the conception of lifeworld. Lifeworld forms the basis from which further deeper empirical analysis is started from. In the last part, I conduct analysis of consumption behaviour with the help of descriptive statistics, contingency tables, and odds ratios to arrive at a deeper insight on the market of convenience food and its consumers.

Part I: Consumption and Sociology

The first part of this thesis consists of a definition of the field of the study. A closer look is laid on the literal signification of consumption and sociology. This forms the frame, within which, in the next step a short outline of the history of sociology of consumption shall be given. Sociology of consumption is a subfield of sociology which increasingly gains importance in present market economies in various fields such as market research, consumer research, and social research.

Definition of the field of study

At the core of the topic of consumption patterns and lifestyles stands the notion of sociology of consumption. According to Max Weber, sociology is “the science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby [to] give a causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. By “action” in this definition is meant the human behaviour when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful.” (Weber 1991, p.7)

Whereas this definition of sociology apparently focuses on human kind and its actions, the notion of consumption according to Wiswede (2000, p.24) contains a meaning which focuses on human action as well, namely that consumption is the purchase and private usage of economic goods and services. By directly contrasting the meaning of sociology and consumption one is even more astonished why sociology of consumption by academics is labelled to be quite underdeveloped as these two notions seem to be predestinated to work together.

So, sociology of consumption can said to be the sub-discipline of sociology aiming at understanding, interpreting and explaining the purchase and private usage of economic goods and services.

Emergence of sociology of consumption

Among sociologists there is consensus that to sociology of consumption cannot be allocated a stringent development. Shove and Ward (2002, p.230) argue that the development of the field of sociology of consumption did not follow a stringent line and name classical authors such as Weber, Veblen and Simmel. It is as Wiswede (2000, p.26) puts it that this field of study is rather underdeveloped, fragmented and strongly influenced by social criticism. Wiswede dates the beginning of this development at the 1950s when above all the work of Riesman, Denney and Glazer laid the foundation for research in this area. The work of Riesman The lonely crowd : a study of the changing American character was actually published in 1950 and can be seen as a milestone in the history of social sciences. The next crucial step, as Wiswede mentions, had been in the 1960s when for the first time the notion of “consumer research” and the category of “social and cultural determinants of consumer behaviour” appeared. Whereas in these years the first works had been published that directly connected sociology and consumption, Wiswede mentions that these had been less academically and more marketing oriented. (Wiswede 2000, p.26-7) At next, regarding Wiswede, in the 1970s sociology of consumption experienced an upswing. In these times, writers had been above all Germans such as Hörnig, Hillmann, Wiswede, Scheuch and Scherhorn. Nevertheless, he accentuates that these did not have a longstanding influence on sociology of consumption. (Wiswede 2000, p.27)

Ward and Shove (1998, p.230) name Bourdieu and his elaboration on the cohesion of position in society and lifestyle as one landmark in the young history of consumption sociology. These authors furhter argue that since this subdiscipline of sociology was not considered as an autonomous field, analysis of consumption accidentally emerged in the context of sociology. It was rather seen as a byproduct and did not stand in the focus of interest. At this point Shove and Ward (1998) mention Castells and his work The Urban Question: a marxist approach. In this book Castells analysed collective consumption and the role of the state. Further numerous publications emerged in the direction of consumer culture, as for instance Lury, C.. 1996. Consumer Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press., and Slater, D.. 1997. Consumer Culture and Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press..

In the 1980s and 1990s, Wiswede (2000) identifies a significant upturn of topics in the realm of sociology of co

Part II: Why do we eat what we eat?

Having laid the foundation, in this section mainstays are put in order to have a solid and stable basis from which empirical analysis can be made. Bourdieu (1984) serves as the guide for the methodological direction of investigation. Ritzer (1993) offers the appropriate view for understanding actual processes in society and the selection of the object of interest. Finally, lifeworld stands for the conceptual background for the later approach for practical research. Principal questions that are seen as threads during this thesis are concerning determinants of our purchase of nutrition. What are the factors behind our daily food consumption? Why do we eat what we eat? How is taste constructed? From a sociological perspective, what are the reasons behind daily purchasing behaviour?

The Social Construction of Taste

The question if taste is learnt independently of the social class of origin, or whether the adherence to the higher or lower class determines taste and life-style, had been one guiding question in Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of the French society in the 1960s and in later years. In 1963 and 1967-68 Bourdieu conducted a survey on 1217 individuals. Bourdieu’s questionnaires and analysis aimed at revealing consumption patterns of French households, i.e. “ determine how the cultivated disposition and cultural competence, ..., vary according to the category of agents and the area to which they applied...” (Bourdieu, 1984, p.13).

At the beginning of the formation of taste, there is socialization. In order to know whether for example a child does not like to go to the theatre because his or her parents do not like to go, or whether a child’s habits are developed independently of its parents’ preferences, one needs to take a closer look at the process of socialization. With regard to Elkin (1960) socialization is “... the process by w an be broadened to nearly every good and practice. Between the final consumption of a good/service and socialization, Bourdieu (1986) inserts the concept of habitus. Whereas, socialization is determined by the social environment the individual lives in, habitus, among other things, is determined by socialization. More explicitly, habitus shall be seen as a kind of transmitter between the capacities to practice, to produce, to work and the capacity of taste, to the ability to make judgements of other individuals’ practices, one’s own actions and, according to Bourdieu (1984, p.170), to employ a “...system of classification of these practices.” The before mentioned capacities can be said to equate general acting. This acting defines and determines the habitus and is primarily conditioned by socialization. The latter judgements on practices and system of classification can be seen as products of habitus. This kind of organizing the environment results in behaviour and is finally expressed in life-style. Habitus is differing from one person to the other, since habitus finally depends on an individual’s conditions of living, of existence, after all on socialization. These translated conditions of existence into habitus become presented via life-style. But habitus is not just a means to the end of life-style. It holds that on the one side, habitus structures acting and its perception, and on the other side, this perception is defined by classification which is an internalization of class differences. However, a social class, to which a certain habitus adheres, does not define its values, its tastes, its practices etc., emanating from beliefs or opinions about their own, solely rooting in socialization. Social classes define themselves, based on impressions from themselves and on impressions to other classes, so on class differences. A social class is placed in a social space, and within this space, its position is determined by the intensity of differences to other classes. These differences are differences arising from habitus of the different classes. (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 170-2)

Habitus becomes apparent in life-style and is thereafter recognizable by others, defining their own position. With regard to the obviousness of habitus, Bourdieu (1984, p.173) notes that habitus creates practical metaphors. He calls it practical metaphor as all individuals belonging to the same class, possess the same style which makes every person a metaphor of the other.

In other words, all members within a social class are characterized by the same practices and goods, which makes individuals analog to eachother. “Taste, the propensity and capacity to appropriate (materially or symbolically) a given class of classified, classifying objects or practices, is the generative formula of life-style, ...” (Bourdieu, 1984, p.173). In his book Distinction - A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Bourdieu further distinguishes between the dominant class and the working class, sometimes also called dominated class. This dualistic distinction is caused by the unequal distribution of economic and cultural capital. Whereas the dominated class in comparison to the dominants is characterized by having relatively less cultural and economic capital, within the dominant class Bourdieu (1984, p.173) further differentiates regarding the relative holding of these two forms of capital. Class fractions, as he calls these subdivisions, are characterized by different asset structures, signifying the composition of the total amount of capital, in economic capital and cultural capital. According to Bourdieu (1986, p.47), cultural capital in the context of his works can take three forms. At first, in the form of the constitution of mind and body. Secondly, in material form via cultural goods such as pictures, books, etc.. And finally in institutionalized state, which implies graduations and educational certificates. Economic capital is much simpler to grasp. It merely contains everything which is directly convertible to money and could be institutionalized, as e.g. property rights. (Bourdieu, 1986, p.47) Not by accident, Bourdieu (1986) denominated the working class as dominated class and the upper class as dominant. The body as a “...materialization of class taste...” makes this predominance of the upper class most evident (Bourdieu, 1986, p.190). Bourdieu (1986, p.384) states that if the dominated class were able to perceive their own body with the eyes and the values of the dominant class, fundamental principles of class affiliation and class identity were affected and questioned. The different rapports of the dominant and dominated classes to their bodies is representative for many other realms in life. The dominated class does not have any chance of longterm resistance to the imposition of preferences by the dominant class, except in the case of a formation of loyalty to its being and its position in the social hierarchy. By taking a look at the goods consumed by the working class, according to Bourdieu (1986, p.386), the impression arises that the working class tries to copy the dominant class. Bourdieu names affordable copies of luxury goods as indicators for the phenomena of imitation of the life-style of the dominants. Actually, the possible reactions of the dominated class towards its position and its standing in relation to the dominant class, falls into the extremes. Whereas on the one end, the choice is self-determination, self-confidence, and emancipation from its own standing, on the other side dominates obedience, compliance and dependence. The actual attitude by the working class stands in contrast to “...collectively regaining control over social identity” (Bourdieu, 1986, p.384). From the perspective of the working class, consumption patterns are strongly influenced and because oriented to the dominant class, indirectly determined by these.

Because of the fact that consumption behaviour finally is the consequence of habitus, and habitus can be traced back to taste, consumption behaviour is an expression of taste. From Bourdieu’s (1986, p.79) stance, the formation of taste takes its beginning with infant learning. Taste is conditioned by the social class one adheres to. These individuals, which are forming a social class, by Bourdieu (1986, p.56) are identified to have the same sort of taste. Because all individuals within a social class share the same sort of taste, taste evolves to an instrument of distinction and similarity. Hence, taste unites and separates humans. With regard to this formation of social classes arising from the distinction of taste, Bourdieu (1986, p.466) remarks that taste functions as a “senser of one’s place.” It functions as a leader in the social space, directing to the position in society adjusted. Based on these achievements of taste with regard to the adherence to social class, finally between middle class and working class different consumption behaviour of convenience food, as an expression of life-style and taste, may be observable.

The following part on Weberian rationalities identifies a development in society which Ritzer labels McDonaldization. Whereas Weber distinguishes between differents forms of rationality in life, Ritzer recognizes these as dominating and critically assesses this development. Based on the fundamental principles of The McDonaldaization of Society, convenience food is chosen as the object of research for this thesis. As a consumer good, it best fits this development of rationalization in society.

Weberian rationalities

In the Weberian sense there are different types of rationalities: practical rationality, theoretical rationality, substantive rationality, and formal rationality (Weber, 1968). Each of them has its distinct characteristics and is applicable to different aspects of life.

-practical rationality-

As the name already indicates, this type of rationality is oriented towards human action. An action is practically rational if the individual decides strategically what the best mean or action may be in order to achieve his goal. According to Weber (1958, p.284), modifications of the practical rational oriented action occur when, on the one hand, means for the attainment change and, on the other hand, when religious dogmas prevail. Whereas a faithless individual, for example, may worry and directly engage in the reparation of an act committed, Catholics go to confession, asking for remission. Beliefs in god and the afterlife change considerably rationally oriented acting. (Weber, 1968, p.551)

-theoretical rationality-

Theoretical rationality principally aims at a rationality through theoretical models and concepts. It is that all cognitive processes constitute theoretical rationality, or also called intellectual rationality. At the bottom of this kind of rationality stand philosophers asking metaphysical questions regarding everyone’s being and existence. According to Weber (1968, p.451), this kind of thinking by the great philosophers of history played a very important role in forming the ground for theoretical rationality, and hence for critical thinking. (Kalberg, 1980, p.1153-4)

-substantive rationality-

Substantive rationalities are systems organizing everyday life. These systems are closed, i.e. they do not directly influence other realms of life, and consist of single actions aiming at the preservation of these systems (Weber, 1968, p.44-45). Because of the fact that these systems are based on personal opinions and views which guide actions, Kalberg (1980, p.1157) speaks of a “radical perspectivism”. Furthermore because personal preferences and the resulting actions are consistent with each other, they can be considered as being rational. An example may consider a family. The opinions a person has with regard to the topic family itself and its preservation, guides his/her actions in this direction (Kalberg, 1980, p.1156-7). Substantively rational action may be the donating of a present to a family member. Substantively irrational action, in modern times, is clouting of a family member.

-formal rationality-

This type of rationality concerns an organization, or, as Kalberg (1980, p.1159) calls it, a “structure of domination”. These forms of organizations are artificially created and are based on the presence of legality. Laws, rules and regulations represent the basis for formal rationality and denote a detachment from times that were characterized by arbitrariness and inequality. Formal rationality presupposes equality before the law. Forms of organizations in which this basic principle is applied are not limited to a certain sphere of life, instead they are extending over economic, legal and scientific domains. A bureaucracy can be identified as the type of organization with the purest form of formal rationality (Weber, 1968, pp.975). (Kalberg, 1980, p.1159-60)

Processes of rationalization, according to Weber, are generally not following a certain path or pattern constant through different societies. Instead, because of the fact that a society finds itself in a continuing interaction with others, rationalization processes are taking place at different “sociocultural levels” and in different spheres of life. It is even that when a process of rationalization can be detected in the domain of politics it does not need to be the case that simultaneously the same development is taking place in economic life, or any other realm of life. (Kalberg, 1980, p.1150-1) The aim of rationalization is the coping with reality, with the help of arranging irregularities in society, in systems that award humans with security and implicitness. This results in the negation of irregularity and arbitrariness, and an affirmation of regularity and rationality (Weber, 1968, pp.1186). The latter mentioned outcomes of rationality are these aspects which in Ritzer’s (1993) view make up the cornerstone for the McDonaldization.


George Ritzer in 1993 further developed and practically applied the aforementioned theory on rationalization. He identified four notions standing behind the curtain of today’s society. Everyday’s events, from going to the supermarket, to eating until watching TV, can be considered from each of these notions. The sum of the resulting impressions and interpretations can be labeled as McDonaldization. Efficiency as the first of four aspects mainly stands for less input for the same or larger amount of output. Calculability implies an appreciation of quantity relative to quality. The third notion, predictability, considers the fulfillment of expectations via technology. Replacement of humans and human labor force is the object of interest of the last notion, control.


According to Ritzer (1993, p. 35) efficiency signifies “...the choice of the optimum to a given end.” But because of the fact that optimum shall not be understood literally, but rather as the nearest possible to optimum, there is always reason for increasing efficiency. Such an increase in efficiency can be reached by certain means. Efficiency also implies the choice of the best means to a given end. The best means or routines adopted then become institutionalized. Since these means arise in different social settings in which the human being is set in, means are not universal but socially conditioned. Here, according to The McDonaldization of Society, a special role is applied to the fast food restaurant. By the fast food restaurant, this striving for efficiency is turned into a “near-universal desire”. (Ritzer, 1993, p.35)

Ritzer (1993) pronounces the increased efficiency of fast food restaurants compared to cooking at home or going to a restaurant. Cooking at home presupposes a “trip” to the supermarket, buying the necessary ingredients, driving home, cooking, etc.. These steps are far from being efficient. At a restaurant, despite the fact that the time waiting for dinner probably takes less time, persons usually spend more time with eating, talking and drinking. People do not rush through restaurants and therefore eating at a classic restaurant cannot be considered as efficient. However, it needs to be admitted that the motivation to go to a restaurant is much different than being sated most efficiently.

On the other side, fast food restaurants are highly efficient. Routines of employees as well as customers are advanced and do not contain any losses of time. Parking places are near to the restaurant and according to Ritzer (1993, p.38), although one has to stand in a line, “food is quickly ordered, obtained and paid for.” The menu does not offer that many choices, and because food can be eaten with hands it is quickly consumed. A further advance has been introduced with the drive-through. Through this invention many inefficient steps on the way to an easy and fast meal had been eliminated. One was not forced to park his car, to walk to the restaurant and to stand in line, but could remain seated in his car, directly drive to the counter, pay, receive the food and eat. In other words, the inputs for the output of satiation became largely reduced and this equals a large increase in efficiency. (Ritzer, 1993, p. 38)

Ritzer (1993, p.35-62) gives multiple examples in order to clarify the predominance of efficiency, beginning with wireless keyboards and ending with self-service slurpees. He further considers the invention of kitchen equipment by which efficiency gained access to the field of cooking. McDonaldized kitchen equipments made cooking far more efficient, as e.g. with the help of the microwave it became possible to heat meals in one or two minutes which otherwise would have required a comparatively long time. Convenience food, in the context of the invention of more efficient kitchen equipment, appears as the appropriate kind of food in order to increase efficiency as much as possible. Eating at home cannot be more efficient than consuming convenience food, since the input of work compared to the output received cannot be any higher. In this context, because of the always increasing predominance of efficiency, Ritzer (1993) holds the opinion that in the near future home cooking will face total extinction. The salvation of eating at home is the microwave. Although using the microwave implies a preceding trip to the supermarket, a fully cooked meal1 is seen by Ritzer as the most efficient meal at home.

The focus on efficiency as it is brought up by Ritzer, had its most famous precursor in the age of the industrial revolution, namely through Henry Ford and the assembly line. At an assembly line, workers stayed directly next to each other and carried out single tasks which represented one step in a complete process of production. By carrying this out, it became possible to largely increase production. “...[F]actory could produce 1,000 cars in a day, a level never before seen.” It is not that the mere introduction of the assembly line had led to the leadership in the automobile industry Ford experienced in these times, but also the idea of vertical integration. Vertical integration implies that all parts of a car are produced at the same company. (Krebs, 2003, p.16) According to Ritzer (2003, p.59) the invention of the assembly line had a huge impact on past as well as present times’ production processes, since movements to complete tasks had been strongly reduced. Workers just have to stand still and work, even the task of carrying the component to the next worker is done by the machine.


The second pillar of McDonaldization is calculability. Generally speaking, calculability denotes a development which emphasizes quantity and disregards quality. Ritzer asserts an equalization of quantity and quality in present societies (Ritzer, 1993, p.62). With the example of Burger King, Ritzer (1993, p.66) claims that “Hamburgers must be served within 10 minutes of being cooked. French fries may be allowed to stand under the heat lamp for no more than 7 minutes. A manager is allowed to throw away 0.3 percent of all food.” This illustrates quite well how much fast food restaurants, and also other entities in society are accentuating calculability. Factors that appear to be calculable, countable, quantifiable and generally measurable in numbers are coming to the fore. Ritzer is speaking of the Big Mac as the symbol to apply the idea of calculability, since, as the name indicates, the customer is expected to assume that he gets a lot for less money (Ritzer, 1993, p.62). One receives large quantities of food with low quality ingredients.

According to Ritzer, there are numerous examples in daily life which are needed to consider in order to fully grasp how far actually this predominance of calculability goes. In the realm of television the vice-president of programming for the TV channel ABC adequately characterized: “Commercial television programming is designed to attract audiences to the advertisers’ messages which surround the programming… . Inherent creative aesthetic values (that is quality!) are important, but always secondary.” (Ritzer, 1993, p.68) In this context pilots shall be noticed, which are used in order to measure the attractiveness of further TV- productions. The underlying decisions to continue producing are based on calculable ratings received by consulting firms.

Although Ritzer explicitly pronounces the effect of the principle of calculability on present societies, the impact of time and its measuring especially on the production process had been discovered much earlier. Frederick Taylor had been the real precursor. His so called Time Study smoothed the ways for considering time as a determining factor in the production process. In the late 19th century, the height of the industrialization in the United States of America, Taylor measured the time a “first-class man” needed to perform his tasks in a fabric. Based on the foregone time measurement, Taylor calculated and set the time for completing a certain task in a production line. The goal of this study was to stop wasting time by the employees and to increase efficiency. (Ferguson, 1997) Results finally were published in his book “The Principles of Scientific Management”, which is said to be the ancestor of modern management theory.

The concept of calculability stands in tight relation with convenience food. On convenience food packages there is always written the time for the meal needed to stay in the microwave, oven, pot, etc. in order to be servable. The customer is able to calculate the time needed for the preparation of the meal. Exactly this calculability of time makes this type of nutrition so attractive for the consumer. One can eat whenever one desires to with the advantage that it is not needed any longer to organize daily routines around mealtimes. Instead, with convenience food it is made possible to put nutrition in time gaps with the schedule is offering. In the end, this may lead to the dissolving of classic mealtimes.


Predictability means that you have an idea what there is going to be or what you obtain, after the occurrence of an event. Hence, predictability logically presupposes expectations whose fulfillment is one of four developments standing at the basis of the progression of McDonaldization. In McDonald’s the existence of predictability can easily be identified by the type of food sold. In a McDonald’s restaurant in Taiwan one can expect to receive (nearly) the same Big Mac as in a McDonald’s in Spain. Ritzer (1993, p.85) mentions that the reason for this uniformity lies in the “...raw ingredients, identical technologies for food preparation and cooking, similarity in the way the food is served, and identical packaging.” Analogically to the food, the huge yellow M of McDonald’s has become a symbol of predictability and food expected. When children, in a car on a trip with their parents, see the glowing M far away or when they cannot even see the M directly and just see the typical kind of color shining behind some roof or some tress, yelling begins begging to stop for a Big Mac. There are many other things in a McDonald restaurant that stand for predictability, as well. Ritzer (1993, p. 85) enumerates the exact following of a list of questions and the same clothing of the employees as further indicators. The notion of predictability seems to appropriately describe convenience food as well. One can always expect when opening the package of such a meal that it is going to taste and to look as the one before. But this is what is preferred by the customer. One does not want to be surprised when purchasing a packet soup or a burger at McDonald’s. The motivation to eat these types of food is the expectation to receive the same food as in the past.

Regarding Ritzer (1993, p.89), bureaucracy is the most predictable organizational form existing. In a bureaucracy individuals do not obey single officials, who as individuals may respond in an irrational way, but obey written rules. These rules define each bureaucrat’s competencies and the overall functioning of an administrative office (Weber, 1973, p.152). It is not a coincedencethat the outcome of bureaucracies is predictable, it is the bureaucracy’s goal to assure that its outcome is predictable and independent of the person occupying the office (Ritzer, 1993, p. 89).


The notions of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control represent perspectives on the appearance of McDonaldization. McDonaldization itself stands for numerous changes taking place in many occurrences of daily life. Such a change can be described by every of the four dimensions equally, and therefore it results that these notions are tightly interrelated. The notion of predictability is related to control in so far as human behavior often is irrational and therefore unpredictable. This unpredictability calls for greater control in order to make it predictable and calculable. Control, regarding Ritzer (1993, p.100), calls for “...the replacement of human with nonhuman technology ” An extension of control, as it is recognizable in recent years calls for new technology. These technologies are increasingly replacing human labor and, according to Ritzer (1993, p.100) are aiming at controlling


1 Fully cooked meal is one branch of convenience food.

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Consumption patterns and lifeworlds using the example of convenience food
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Title: Consumption patterns and lifeworlds using the example of convenience food

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