McDonaldization In Rural America

Today Wordout presents a guest post by Stesha Parrish.

The Phenomenon Of Efficiency
Ronald McDonaldImage via Wikipedia

We have all heard of McDonald’s, if not eaten or even worked there. Most are familiar with the concept of more for less as quickly as you can get it, yet few of us realize just how deeply interwoven this concept has become in the fabric of our society. This sociological phenomenon that has been taking place in our society is called “McDonaldization.” McDonaldization is a term coined by George Ritzer in his 1994 book titled, “The McDonaldization of Society.”

McDonaldization is defined primarily by four components: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control (McDonaldization). Each of these is taking its own toll on our way of life. Since the 1950’s popularization of efficient assembly lines, McDonaldization has spread its finger fries into nearly every aspect of society and greatly affecting our American culture, particularly in rural America. Over the past twenty-years those of us from rural America have seen many transformations take place, and not all of them are good.

Paradise Lost

Communities and the individuals therein are loosing their local identities. This, too, appears to be more prevalent in the rural vs. urban and is a direct result of McDonaldization. There was once a time when the citizens of rural communities all served a distinct purpose and relied on one another to keep the unique community alive, functioning, and viable. That day appears to be passing as killed specialty trades are less in demand and the locally owned stores are less prevalent. Instead of the teenager learning to work the family farm he/she is working at Wal-Mart, as the family farm was put out of business. Instead of the children learning to cook and enjoying a healthy traditional family meal, many are learning to purchase food via a drive-thru and family time is spent in front of the television.

Here in the South, community gatherings typically include a “pot luck” or “covered dish”, in which it is the custom to bring a homemade item to share. More people are now bringing frozen finger food, prepared at store cheese plates, or even a bucket of chicken from K.F.C. in substitution of home cooked offerings. There also appears to be less of these types of functions occurring as communities become more fragmented. This affects how culture is passed from one generation to the next, as there are few opportunities for a community to come together to relay customs and heritage to the young what makes their group culturally unique.

Identity Theft

This loss of identity is also material. Many rural towns are known for particular places or stores that are “one of a kind” and always better than the neighboring communities equivalent. A local ice cream parlor, hair salon, or local grocery/butcher may be a local icon within a community or even region. Many of these gems are being forced to close by corporate competitors such as Ben & Jerry’s, Fantastic Sam’s, or Wal-Mart that are anything but unique at any location. Some say these types of companies create jobs and offer a cheaper solution in these hard times; in reality, it is these types of companies that have contributed to the creation of our current hard times. It this type of McDonaldization of our economic market and American lifestyle that is forcing locally owned businesses out of

We, as individual communities, are being forced into these cookie cutter molded images of one another with the same limited options available everywhere else. We are being trained to not think, not to interact, and totally to rely on anything but each other or ourselves for our survival. We are becoming increasingly lazy, obese, and with less options available to make the needed changes to ensure our unique survival. Rural America is not alone in the cultural crumbling due to McDonaldization.