Prepare for total McDonaldization. It might hurt a little

Moving towards a global monoculture

Essay, 2014

5 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Prepare for total McDonaldization – It might hurt a little

We are one – at least that is how it feels when you hop of a plane in South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Japan or in the United States. Surely, as you take a cab to the next big city, listening to the radio playing Rihannas latest song, you will encounter familiar signs like the golden M of McDonald’s restaurants, which signals you that you can get a familiar burger here. Later, you may decide to go to the movies and chances are high that you will see the latest Hollywood-Blockbuster. Of course you can pay your ticket with the same credit card you always use to buy your groceries in your home country. Globalization seems to be a blessing, everything is so familiar, predictable and therefore easy to handle. It seems that over time and with accelerating velocity the world has come together. All over the world we share a similar taste in music, food and movies, and on a political level depend on single governments who reign nation states with clear cut borders. Of course, there are still some blind spots, for example McDonald's only has conquered 118 nations until December 2014[1], but it is only a matter of time, until everyone experiences the taste of a BigMac. But be warned, this convenient assimilation doesn't happen without tremendous costs, because under the cover of comfortable services lies the rationalization of every aspect of life. This rationalization is problematic, because it leads to a lack of cultural diversity and in addition transforms the world into a profit generating machine. The worst part: There is nobody to blame, but ourselves, because we started it!

The broad term Globalization stands for a process of international integration. Through global interchange of various aspects of culture, new ways are introduced on a local level as an addition to existing ones. Therefore Globalization will lead to more diversity, bi- or even poly-cultural societies (Ritzer and Stillman 2003: 33). But this tempting idea is way too optimistic, because in reality cultures rather compete with each other. In fact, there are a couple of one-directional processes, which try to transform local cultures in certain ways. The most obvious one is Westernization, or to be more specific, Americanization, a phenomenon which dominates popular world culture today. Though ever prominent, the end of the Cold War provided the crucial boost for a global Americanization. Soon, the heavily romanticized American way of life became the goal for almost everyone, because it implied the possibility of wealth and freedom for everyone. American products like Hollywood movies even found their way into strong movie markets like India's or China's. Songs of American music artists are dominating sales all over the world and moreover people around the world rely on America based services like Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp to communicate with each other. Altogether one can say that media culture in general is dominated by US corporations (Ritzer and Stillman 2003: 35ff.) and “American cultural artifacts are an increasingly central element of global culture” (Ritzer and Stillman 2003: 37). A crucial part of this Americanization is the mainly western idea of extensive rationalization. In its extreme form it can be labeled best by McDonaldization, which will be discussed later.

Aside from an increasing Americanization of media culture, there is the curious case of the emerge of nation states. As Meyer and his colleagues observed, nation states are “highly rationalized, articulated and surprisingly consensual” all over the world (Meyer et al. 1997: 145). Since the end of World War 2 there has been a global institutional development towards uniform nation states, which cannot be explained only by actions of local actors. There must be an overarching force behind it and this force is World Culture. Following this argument means that nation states are culturally constructed and embedded (Meyer et al. 1997: 147). This is proven by a common way of organizing and legitimizing all nation states via citizenship, rule of law and elections, and a universal “job description” like providing infrastructure, education and security (Meyer et al. 1997: 148). Although nation states are standardized, they are not developing with identical velocity. Issues like women in higher education may be targeted differently in Germany than in India, but the fact, that this particular issue is addressed in large parts of the world supports the idea of a World Culture, a shared framework of understanding (Meyer et. al. 1997: 152)[2]. In a nutshell, different histories of individual nation states neither change the way they operate, nor what they provide for their citizens. In addition the building of nation states is a one-way road. On the one hand, the collapse of the UdSSR only produced new independent nation states. On the other hand, anti-west states like North Korea and China nevertheless rely on the same model of nation states like the countries they state to oppose (Meyer et al. 1997: 159).

But who is responsible for a common culture of nation states? For Meyer et al. the answer is clear: Sciences and professions as well as social movements and organizations (Meyer et al. 1997: 164f.). The globally applied models are based on truths, originally formulated by scientists and implemented by professionals. The fact that we value their rationalized knowledge grants them the necessary authority to define ultimate truths, almost like a new form of religion, an unconditional believe (Meyer et al. 1997: 166). Their main allies[3] are social movements and organizations, because whenever a nation state refuses to follow the unified way of sciences and professions, organizations like Amnesty International or Greenpeace will try to force the resisting government to return to the common path. These organizations detect discrepancies and will not rest until model conformity is established (Meyer et al. 1997: 165). The nation state model has almost become a new religion, the whole world believes in its success and superiority. That is the reason why even in areas where this model clearly fails, like Somalia, local[4] and global actors keep trying to set up a nation state. Even the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) intends to build a nation state, thus relies on a globalized western model despite their hatred for the West. Another problem is that all nation states pursue similar goals and resources, which inevitable leads to conflict among them (Meyer et. al. 1997: 170).

Apart from a amercanized popular culture and a global structure of uniform nation states, there is another homogenizing process at work: McDonaldization. Named after the infamous American fast food company, which successfully applied principles and ways of production of the automobile industry to the food industry, McDonaldization represents a domination of these principles in various parts of societies. It basically means a push for efficiency, predictability, calculability and the replacement of human with non-human technology. The application of this model onto cultural products like music, movies or even public goods like education grant a comparative financial advantage over other ways of organizing. Our generally highly rationalized societies all over the globe clearly favour McDonaldization's benefits. At this stage nation states are acting on behalf of cost-benefit analysis and, originating from the West and especially the United States, a culture of consumption is spreading (Ritzer and Stillmann 2003: 36).


[1] According to McDonald's (

[2] According to recent reports female enrollment at universities has increased significantly over the past two decades, which supports the idea of an assimilation. The current ratio between male and female students is roughly at 1,5:1 (

[3] A conspiracy is not implied, the relation between scientists/professionals and social movements is unintentional.

[4] E.g. Somaliland is a self-declared independent state, but not recognized as such internationally.

Excerpt out of 5 pages


Prepare for total McDonaldization. It might hurt a little
Moving towards a global monoculture
University of Siegen
World Society, World Culture and World Politics
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
367 KB
sociology, world culture, globalization, glocalization, mcdonaldization, culture, culture trends, merging of cultures, monoculture
Quote paper
Fabian Speitkamp (Author), 2014, Prepare for total McDonaldization. It might hurt a little, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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