The Mcdonaldization of the World


“Food is a complex case. Its consumption is universal, mundane and polyvalent. Everyone eats; most eat several times a day without much reflection; yet the activity is integrally connected with many other highly meaningful aspects of living. It is meaningful because it is social…” (Warde, 1997: 180).

So I will be writing my paper 2 on the commodification and globalization of food using McDonald’s as an example of how this can happen. I think McDonald’s is interesting because it can be found almost everywhere in the world and anyone can open a McDonald’s franchise. In order to better understand how food can transform from something that is shared around a family dinner table to a commodity sold all over the world I wanted to read a book that spoke more about the theories of consumption and trends in food purchasing.

Alan Warde wrote this book in 1997 using sociological theory as the backbone for understanding food. Warde outlines some theories of change through the late 20th century and explains how consumer behavior and trends in food are related very closely to one another. He suggests that contemporary consumption is best viewed as a process of continual constrained selection among an unprecedented range of generally accessible items which are made commercially and informally.

The book will be really helpful in getting a better understanding of how food becomes a product that can be bought and sold and how McDonald’s fits into that.

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6 comments on “The Mcdonaldization of the World

  1. This will be a very interesting topic to write about for paper 2. Maybe you can include how eating food has changed over time. For example meals may be more on the go now rather than a long sit down family dinner.

  2. I don’t understand “made commercially and informally.” Normally, in economic sociology, informal production would be like at the Mercado Burrito downtown, or like a street vendor. That is, the production is not likely to be highly bureaucratized. At Mc D’s, and all of its ilk, the “assembly” of food is highly controlled and formalized. So, either Warde is saying something odd interesting, or you mis-quoted?

    There is a lot out there about the “McDonaldization” of production and consumption. I am surprised you didn’t find George Ritzer’s book with that title. May be worth looking into.

    For your policy paper, i am curious if you want to look at attempts to “localize” the basic commodified fast food restaurant. From Chipotle to Starbucks to some salad one I’ve seen in airports, I think we can see attempts to take contemporary consumer concerns about quality and sourcing and address them with the core McDonald’s model. I think McDonald’s itself will point to national variations in its menus to suggest it is not as “evil” as the stereotypical French would make out in terms of at least having regional variation.

    Do the “new model” fast food places actually “work?” in terms of de-commodifying?

  3. McDonalds certainly is an interesting company to look into. It is very true how one can find one pretty much anywhere in the world, but it is also worth noting how different they are from country to country. I studied in France this past year and saw how different the McDonalds are there. They had many items on the menus that one would never find here…such as the goat cheese burger on a baguette. The pricing strategy was also very different as one could easily walk out of there having spent upwards of $15.

  4. I’m not sure if this is based on relative standard of living or if it is truly differentiation, but apparently McDonald’s is considered a high-end restaurant in India. Professor Chaubey was telling us in another class about how his cousin really wanted to go to McDonald’s when he was visiting the United States because it is considered a “special treat” to go there in India.

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