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The Role of Efficiency in Human Success

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McDonaldization, coined by sociologist George Ritzer, is the process of rationalization, though exaggerated. Ritzer explains that McDonaldization occurs when a culture takes the qualities of the of a fast-food restaurant (84). It is leaving traditional modes of thought to rational ones and to scientific management. The basic tenet of McDonaldization is most tasks can and should be rationalized. McDonaldization takes a task and subdivides it into smaller tasks. These tasks are subdivided further until they cannot be divided any more. The ensuing tasks are then rationalized to come up with the most efficient method of completing each. All other methods are considered to be inefficient and are abandoned. This results into an efficient and logical chain of methods that can be repeated to produce the similar desirable results. The outcome is foreseen. All aspects of the procedure are controlled. In addition, calculability (or quantity) becomes the yardstick for good performance. Thus, efficiency (the best possible way of carrying out a task), calculability (evaluation of outcomes based on quantity as opposed to quality), and predictability (the production process is structured to assure homogeny of product) are the four main dimensions of McDonaldization (Kellner).

The Over-rationalization of a process in this way has unanticipated side effect known as irrationality (Ritzer 114). It results in outcomes that were neither expected nor desired. In fact, the results are appalling. In addition, it results in a work force with the least ability. This means that the workforce is trained speedily and cheaply and is replaced with ease. Over-rationalization also results in customers being tricked into becoming workers without pay (Ritzer 126). One notable thing about efficiency is that it often becomes the end rather than a means. The ‘displacement of goals’ is a major problem to a rationalizing society. People too concerned with following the rules often do not see that their inflexibility negatively affects the organization’s goal. People want to know what to expect from every situation. They do not want surprises. Amusement parks have become predictable. People know what to expect from any activity. Camping out in the wild is predictable. Sports have also become predictable. Emphasis on calculability has also not helped much as people are concerned with the quantity. Thus, quality has been relegated to the backseat. Workers are gauged on the amount of work done; quality is given little or no attention since it is hard to measure. Rational systems are set to expedite control over life uncertainties. The major uncertainties in life are people. That means control over juniors by the super-ordinates and consumers by the workers. Instead of a rational system controlling uncertainties such as death, and food production, it ends up controlling people. Thus, efficiency of a rational system has not necessarily been at the forefront of social development.

Traditional societies were essentially hierarchical (Gellner 86). They were more laborious and technically inefficient. Their unstructured cognition was not functionally differentiated. Cognition was bound-up with specific circumstances. They were not concerned with efficiency like the modern society. An example of institutional change that is driven by the quest to achieve efficiency is seen in the assembly lines. Nowadays, an assembly line consists of a set of nonhuman technologies with the needed skills and steps inbuilt. The various human skills needed to do the work are broken down into a series of simple routine steps that could be taught to any worker, rather than a skilled artisan. The worker in these institutions is reduced into making a minimum number of easy, rhythmic operations. This has a positive effect in that more is produced from less cost, effort, and time. The negative effects are that workers have been reduced to following the rules blindly but obediently rather than getting the task done the way they deem fit. People are continually losing their ability to reason and act in an unanticipated manner. Rules, procedures, and machines are eliminating this problem. This is the reason that has led the car markers to call back vehicles after they have been released to the market after finding out they were faulty. A model made between certain periods will have faults because from the time the first car was made until the time the mistakes are realized; the same erratic procedures will have been applied for a certain period. 

McDonaldization or rationalization with the McDonald as the archetype case is happening throughout the world. In more sectors of the societies, emphasis is being laid on efficiency, control, calculability, and predictability. Capitalism is a case in point. It is a McDonaldized economic policy. So is the practice of commercialization that capitalism makes use of in order to boost sales. Almost all holidays, for example, were born out of a religious circumstance or in commemoration of some past occasion. However, in the highly McDonaldized American society these traditional values are increasingly diminishing. The aim is shifting from the qualitative intention of a meaningful fete to the more calculative aim of boosting sales. The qualitative value of gift has diminished with individuals dropping hints or speaking directly about the gifts they adore. The value of gifts is more likely to be weighed by objective (monetary value) than subjective (symbolic). Most major holidays now are McDonaldized. In the conventional environments, gifts were often handcrafted works that held some symbolic meaning. This qualitative value of gifts has diminished in the United States. Currently, individuals speak outwardly about the gift they adore and the gifts they would like to receive. This commercialization is affecting social relations negatively. It is loosening the social ties to such an extent that a child will weigh gifts given to them by parent on the monetary value. 

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