In the book, Ritzer took central elements of the work of Max Weber, expanded and updated them, and produced a critical analysis of the impact of social structural change on human interaction and identity. The central theme in Weber's analysis of modern society was the process ofrationalization; a far reaching process whereby traditional modes of thinking were being replaced by an ends/means analysis concerned with efficiency and formalized social control. For Weber, the archetypal manifestation of this process was the bureaucracy; a large, formal organization characterized by a hierarchical authority structure, well-established division of labor, written rules and regulations, impersonality and a concern for technical competence.
Bureaucratic organizations not only represent the process of rationalization, the structure they impose on human interaction and thinking furthers the process, leading to an increasingly rationalized world. The process affects all aspects of our everyday life. Ritzer suggests that in the later part of the 20th century the socially structured form of the fast-food restaurant has become the organizational force representing and extending the process of rationalization further into the realm of everyday interaction and individual identity. McDonald's serves as the case model of this process in the 1990s. The book introduced the term McDonaldization into learned discourse to describe mind-numbing sameness.
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