George Ritzer: Globalization, McDonaldization, Americanisation

George Ritzer and the three ‘izations’: Globalization, McDonaldization, and Americanisation

George Ritzer (born June 1, 1937) is an American sociologist and Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland. His work has been influential in the development of sociological thinking, while his contributions contribute to diverse fields such as sociology, anthropology, and political science.

He is most known for developing the four quadrants model (marketing quadrants), which distinguishes four social roles or social domains that are typically occupied by people within organizations: producer (enterprise or business people), customer (consumers or customers), client or clientele (people who work inside organizations) and employee (from the bottom up).

This model has been used extensively in modern marketing research to explain consumers’ behaviour and motivations towards decisions about buying products.

Early Life

George Ritzer began his career by writing stories, poetry, and plays while attending Williams College. While in graduate school at Columbia University he taught a course on the sociology of knowledge. Ritzer published his first book, Toward a Description of the Methodological Self-Reflexive Sociology in 1970. Two years later he co-edited edited Utopian Dimension: Studies on Ideology and Culture with Howard J. Ehrlich (1975). Later books included The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Role of Business in Society (2000), The Zero-Sum Society: Conflict Between Western and Eastern Societies (2001), His most recent book is Consciousness and Power: Essays on Sociology (2009).

Ritzer: Contributions

As a proud social theorist, Ritzer was fascinated by consumption and the sociology of Consumption. Ritzer often referred to presumption, a term first coined by Alvin Toffler. He uses the term to distinguish the false dichotomy that exists between consumption and production. Technological advancements and historical inventions that came about after the Industrial Revolution have blurred the lines between consumption and production, giving way to prosumption, in which people both consume and produce at the same time. He uses prosumption to define new technological concepts as simple as selfies to cryptocurrency and blockchain networks.  Ritzer also conceptualized metatheory in sociology.

Ritzer defines Metathery as an achievement of a deeper understanding of concepts or theories, the creation of a new theory, and the creation of an over-arching theoretical perspective. This type of metatheory can be thought of as a study of how the field has progressed and how it can continue forward. Through the application of this subset, Ritzer suggests that sociology has a stronger foundation and can experience rapid and dramatic growth through a better understanding of the theoretical theories applied within sociology today.

He mentions three types of metatheorizing : Mu, Mp, and Mo.

Mu is a subset of metatheory that focuses on the attainment of a deeper understanding of theory. This category includes four subsets: internal-intellectual, internal-social, external-intellectual, and external-social. These four subsets identify the current schools of thought within sociology as well as identify the structure and scope of current sociological theories.

The second category of metatheory (Mp), aims at creating a new theory. Within the greater category of Mp, Ritzer identifies three subsets: empirical-practical, empirical-deontological, and empirical multiplex. The empirical-practical sector uses its findings to develop theories that can be used to improve society’s problems.

The third category of metatheory (Mo), refers to the creation of an overarching theoretical perspective through which all others are understood.

Globalization

The concept of globalization is a phenomenon of global networks, which provide the foundation for the transmission of goods and services, ideas, information, and people. The foundation of globalization is commonality, which includes the development of similar values in societies around the world. Globalization can also be defined as a term used to describe the increasing integration of economies and cultures around the world, as well as the emergence of a world market, where products, services, and ideas are traded across borders.

George Ritzer defines the concept of Globalization as the process by which people, objects, and information flow across the planet as well as any form of structures they encounter that may act as barriers or catalysts to the said flow. He emphasizes how globalization allows a free flow of information that supersedes barriers between countries or nations. Ritzer also states that Globalization is not just an economic process but one that impacts and influences social, cultural, and technological structures as well.

He uses terms like Global consciousness, the interdependence of societies and cultures, and worldwide integration of societies and cultures to describe globalization. He states that makes up the features of globalization. His research based on globalization and its structures, lead him to construct his theories on Americanisation.

Americanisation

Americanization, according to George Ritzer, is the process by which immigrants become more like Americans and adopt American values. This leads to the creation of an individualistic culture. The term Americanization refers to broad changes that have taken place in both countries over time as well as geographical distribution regarding lifestyle and work conditions.

He is among the first scholars to draw attention to this area, whose significance became especially evident during the post-World War II period when it became apparent that Americanization was advancing rapidly with respect to lifestyle, attitudes regarding work, family values, and attitudes toward education, technology, and sexuality. It focuses on key concepts and features of American Society like individuality, consumerism, and rationalism.

Some other features of American society that are promoted are the superiority of American culture and values,individualistic-lead cultures,  consumerist behavior, ideals of Americanised-profit making along with American norms, values, and traditions.

For example, there are more people around the world aware of holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Thanksgiving than holidays celebrated in third-world nations.

McDonaldization

McDonaldization is a concept by George Ritzer that defines the ubiquitous system of production, consumption, and marketing that has taken hold in most aspects of modern-day life. He introduced the concept of McDonaldization with his 1993 book, The McDonaldization of Society. The concept has become central within the field of sociology and especially within the sub-field of the sociology of globalization.

He bases his theory of McDonaldization on Max Weber’s theory of social rationality and how it produced bureaucracy, where society is organized in hierarchical roles. Ritzer states that while this bureaucratic system of social organization is still prevalent in society, the McDonalidizational organization has formed a new social order.

The concept of McDonaldization by George Ritzer is the continued development of managerial and work practices which have developed from, and subordinate workers to the demands of a company. It goes beyond fast food chains and had been adopted by society, its institutions, and its organizations to increase efficiency, calculability, predictability, standardization, and control of its factors. These four characteristics form the four main aspects of McDonaldisation affecting not only production and work but also consumer experience.

The concept of McDonaldization is the idea that a society can become increasingly lacking in “the human touch”. When this happens, people and businesses are more willing to turn to “quick-fix solutions”, or “inefficient habits of behavior” as Ritzer describes them.

George Ritzer, as an 81-year-old is still an active sociologist. He industriously analyses neo-digital spheres like cryptocurrency, NFT’s and blockchain technology as a social theorist to further explain his concepts like prosumption. His theories of globalization, McDonaldization, and Americanisation are still widely used in sociology and extremely important when understanding and analyzing new global advancements, reforms, and technologies.