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Scientific Management

Scientific Management

Author: Zach Lamb

This lesson will discuss scientific management and the McDonalidization of society

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

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Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. I hope you're doing well. We're going to talk about Scientific Management and the McDonaldization of society. How society has come to mirror the kind of efficiency and practices in McDonald's restaurants themselves. So McDonald's is a ubiquitous aspect of American life, and now even global life. You can think about the urban centers where there's McDonalds seemingly on every corner.

Ronald McDonald is second only to Santa Claus in terms of visual recognition of children all over the world. McDonald's is an unimaginably successful business. You could not get more successful than McDonald's. The Arches, for people outside this country, could even symbolize aspects of America. So how did this happen in just a half century? What principles underlay McDonald success? I have on the board here four principles of McDonaldization. That were identified by sociologist, George Ritzer. A Sociologist, a Theorist, a Sociologist of Consumption, really prominent guy in Sociology, working at the University of Maryland.

He argued that these four principles came to dominate American society as a whole and permeate aspects of our culture that go beyond just fast food restaurants. So before we start explaining these, think about trips to McDonald's. Think about what you see the workers doing. Think about the food that you get. Think about other times you've been to McDonald's and compare the two trips. Were they similar? Well, this hits at some principles of McDonaldization, efficiency, predictability, uniformity, and control.

Efficiency. McDonald's is predicated on getting food out in an efficient manner quickly. And they want to do that with predictable fashion. You go to McDonald's when you're traveling because well, you know what you're going to get, uniform. You could predict your experience. McDonald's wants to be efficient and control the process so it has a predictable commodity, a uniform commodity.

And this business model came to revolutionize society Ritzer argued. Think about how you see these principles in other areas of society. Now we can bank online with smartphones. We can go to self checkouts at grocery stores or other businesses, where we don't have to interact with a human. Humans introduce a whole level of variability in this. If you could cut the human out you can more accurately ensure predictability, efficiency, uniformity, and control.

I might be in a bad mood, and I show up to work at McDonald's, I'm not going to really like, the work that fast or whatever. So in an effort to get rid of, humans we can ensure all of this stuff. Everything is the same, like we all by the same toys from the same department stores. When you go to a hotel room, a Marriott in Manhattan is going to look a lot like a Marriott in Dublin. If you've ever been on a cruise, like a Disney cruise-- What's it called? A McDisney style of tourism. You know it's the same thing. It's all highly controlled. The presentation is designed to be just these four things. All of these four principles then are an effort to become more rational. They're a part of the process of rationalization. But all of this rationality can have some backlash, some negative consequences.

When I did my research on travelers who stayed with strangers rather than in those Marriotts that look the same. Well i theorized it was a reaction against this overly dominant rationality in society, this need to have everything the same, efficient, predictable , uniformity control. They didn't want that. I theorized that they were in search for authentic experience that was more naturally occurring and organic, and less contrived and controlled. Like the Marriott wants to shape your experience.

So there are pockets in society that react to this over rationalism. But Ritzer was right to identify that this McDonaldization of society is occurring. We see it in so many domains of social life. This push to rationality in society and production really began with what we call Scientific Management or also known as taylorism, named after the guy who helped to create this.

Scientific Management is the application of scientific knowledge and principles to increase the efficiency of the production process. We're using scientific insights mechanization to increase and control the workflow in a business or in a production plan. This is really epitomized by Ford Motor Company. They were the first to really implement scientific management effectively, such that we now call the image of the Ford assembly line in a manufacturing plant, mass production uniformity, coming right out. We call that Fordism. And we can use Fordism to just label other production processes that are similarly structured.

So in this kind of production, in Fordism, in Scientific Management, workers are just cogs in a vast machine of production. They have a specialized tasks, where they want to do that and just keep the whole process moving. Nobody's trying to build an entire car themselves. They each specialize in one aspect of it. And increase the efficiency throughout. McDonald's food production is no different. It's under lied by principles of Scientific Management.

There was a time in society where mass production was championed as great. Everybody wanted the same similar commodities to what we were turning out. Now we've sort of had a backlash against mass production. People don't want to be given mass commodities to consume. They want to be seen and treated in a socially differentiated fashion. So we have all these new non-mass produce commodities that are starting to pop up that people use to assert something about themselves and to say something about their identities. So there is a reaction to McDonaldization society out there happening. Well, I hope you enjoyed this introduction to McDonalidization and the ideas of George Ritzer. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
  • George Ritzer

    American sociologist who studies American patterns of consumption, as well as globalization and social theory. Ritzer developed the "McDonaldization of Society" in a book of the same name.

  • McDonaldization of Society

    The idea that many aspects of life are modeled after the approach taken by the restaurant chain. There are four main principles: 1) Efficiency, 2) Predictability, 3) Uniformity, 4) Control.

  • Scientific Management (Taylorism)

    The application of scientific principles to analyze workflow and efficiency in business and production.