When the task of comparing and contrasting the works of two acclaimed sociologists is asked of you there are many things that leap into one’s mind. Firstly there is the factor of time or circa, the first of the two being Max Weber who was born in 1864 and is considered to be one of the forefathers of sociological theory. The second, George Ritzer is a man of our time and in fact still a lecturer at the University of Maryland in America on sociology today. Max Weber was committed to the study of causality, the probability that an event would be followed by another event not necessarily of a similar nature. In addition to this, he also believed that social scientists should not let their personal values influence their scientific research. In this area, Weber thought that sociology should be “value Free”. One of Webers best-known contributions to contemporary sociology is the ideal type. An ideal type is a concept constructed by a social scientist, based on his or her interests and theoretical orientation, to capture the essential features of some social phenomenon.
Weber also analyzed the levels to which rationality was becoming institutionally embedded in modern industrialized societies. In short, the rationalization process is the practical application of knowledge to achieve the desired goal. It has been shown to lead to better efficiency, coordination and control over what can be assumed to be both the physical and social environment. Rationalization is the guiding principle behind bureaucracy and the increasing division of labour. IT has led to the unprecedented increase in both the production of goods and services and the uprise of secularization, depersonalization and oppressive routine. Bureaucracy was according to Weber a form of organization superior to all others, and due to this fact, further bureaucratization and rationalization was most probably an inescapable fate.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $12
Webber wrote in one of his many books: Economy and society, “Without this form of (social) technology the industrialized countries could not have reached the heights of extravagance and wealth that they currently enjoy”. Weber believed that this capacity for social order would lead to the evolution of the iron cage, and as a result a society that was technically ordered, rigid, and dehumanized. Like Weber, George Ritzer’s theory on McDonaldization also deals with the “Iron Cage” of existence. It looks at the restraints and needs for regimental conformity and order that is placed upon society’s workers. It uses the popular restaurant name, as Ritzer believes it to possess all the attributes that go hand in hand with his theory. By the 1950s, due to the combination of advancement in technology, the more widespread usage of automobiles and the development of large new suburbs both shopping and eating practices changed.
The small corner store was beginning to be pushed out of the marketplace by bigger more efficient stores, usually existing within large shopping complexes that were popping up in the newly developed suburbs. Fast food was designed to lure families out of the home, by providing a meal at a price that everyone could afford. The reasons for going out and visiting one of these restaurants and such was more to do with the qualities that they emphasized and not to do with the quality of the goods or service. George Ritzer has taken central ideas and concepts from Weber’s theory and expanded and updated them. His critical analysis of the impact of social structural change on human interaction and identity has many of the same ideas behind it. The idea of the Iron Cage is evident in both works. Ritzer’s theory on McDonaldization suggests that in the latter part of the 20th century the socially structured form of the fast-food restaurant has become the organizational force representing and extending Weber’s process of rationalization.
A newer term used for this way of thinking is the Chain mentality. Ritzer, more so than Weber sees that this form of De-humanization has spread and will continue to do so into more aspects of our everyday life. This would be linked to the fact that rationalization although always present is now more than ever evident in today’s society. Ritzer outline’s five dominant themes within the McDonaldization process these include: Efficiency, calculability, predictability, Increased Control and Familiarity. Efficiency is choosing the optimum means to a given end, it is advantageous to consumers who can obtain what they need more quickly with less effort. Calculability is the ability to produce and obtain large amounts of goods/items very rapidly. This is a plus in most cases for the consumer however, quality and uniqueness are usually lost as a result.
The absolute need for high levels of control over both the employee and the customer feature greatly in McDonaldization, for instance, the process adopted by McDonald’s to get the patron to carry their own meal and clear up after themselves are all forms of control. Predictability features greatly in the importance of a McDonaldized company, for example being able to predict exactly what outcome you are going to get is, in most cases, considered an important factor. Franchising plays on the predictability of achieving the same service or product on offer in operations not directly owned by the company. With regard to familiarity: one of the most well-established principles of psychological practice is that if preference starts from a neural point, mere familiarization can establish a liking, and eventually a preference, which can result in rejection to the unfamiliar. Both Weber and Ritzer’s theories have many of the same ideas and principles, Weber did not however in his life get to see the results of the society that he envisaged. Ritzer states “ The lines at the fast-food restaurants can be very long, and the drive-thru even longer.
These rational systems don’t save us money; we might spend less but we do more work.” Rationalization was said by Weber to make man regress centuries and become like the men of Egyptian times, aimlessly performing the same task with no sense of reward or self-gratitude. What seemed to scare both Weber and Ritzer, was the ability of mankind to be able to cope with life if it suddenly became unbalanced, when after living very comfortably with this way of life how mankind would then regress to functioning without all of the restrictions, rules, and order. No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals. For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart… Maybe as forecasted by Weber we will become humans lacking in true deep emotions, or perhaps if Ritzer is correct we are already beginning to function that way.
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