The McDonaldization of
From Fordism to Post-Fordism
By: Mohamed Mousa
What is Fordism
Criticism of post-Fordism
Henry ford is the founder of Fordism concept as he worked as trainee in
different Michigan machine shops and in later years as a qualified engineer
for the Edison Illuminating company where he received the first hand
knowledge of how industries were being run.
During that time the automotive industry were using Taylor principles. This
was based on
Develop a science for each element of an individual’s work , which will
replace the old rule-of-thumb method.
Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the worker.
Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in
accordance with the principles of the science that has been developed.
Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and
workers. Management takes over all work for which it is better fitted than
Ford developed revolutionary method of production and marketing that
made the automobile accessible to the American working class; he created
the ford motor company where he introduced the Model T, which was
simple and light, yet sturdy enough to drive on the country's primitive
roads. Henry Ford's success and revolutionary techniques of production
were termed Fordism
What is Fordism
Fordism is "the manufacturing system designed to spew out standardized,
low-cost goods and afford its workers decent enough wages to buy them
It has also been described as "a model of economic expansion and
technological progress based on mass production: of standardized
products in huge volumes using special purpose machinery and unskilled
Due to Fordism success in developing automotive industry the principle could
be applied to any kind of manufacturing processes.
Major success stemmed from three major principles:
The Standardization of the product
The use of Special-purpose tools and/or equipment via the assembly line
The Elimination of skilled labour in direct production, while at the same
time paying the worker higher wages.
These principles coupled with a technological revolution during Henry Ford's
time allowed for his revolutionary form of labour to flourish.
What is Fordism
His most original take was with his breakdown of complex tasks into simpler
ones with the help of specialized tools .This allowed the assembly line to
change its components whenever the vehicle in production evolved enough
to warrant a change.
The major advantage of such a change was that:
it cut down on the man power necessary for the factory to operate
it deskilled the labour itself,
cutting down on costs of production
What is Fordism
Worth mentioning that Ford cars (Model-T), became a symbol of effective
The mass production of this automobile lowered its unit price, making it
affordable for the average consumer.
Furthermore, Ford significantly increased its workers' wages, giving them the
means to become customers.
These factors led to massive consumption.
Henry Ford revolutionized a system, which consisted of synchronization,
accuracy, and specialization within a company. These innovative ideas led
to Fordism, and as mentioned, this concept helped increase economic
prosperity in the United States in the 1940s to 1960s
McDonaldization of Society
McDonaldization was originally
Professor of Sociology at the
University of Maryland and
McDonaldization of Society - An
Investigation into the Changing
The process by which a society
takes on the characteristics of a
Max Weber used the model of the
bureaucracy to represent the
direction of this changing society,
Ritzer sees the fast-food restaurant
McDonaldization takes a task
and breaks it down into
This is repeated until all tasks
have been broken down to
the smallest possible level.
The resulting tasks are then
rationalized to find the single
most efficient method for
completing each task.
All other methods are then
The result is an efficient,
logical sequence of methods
that can be completed the
same way every time to
produce the desired outcome.
The outcome is predictable.
All aspects of the process are
Additionally, quantity (or
The optimal method for accomplishing a task; in this context,
Ritzer has a very specific meaning of "efficiency“: it is simply the
fastest method to get from point A to point B.
In the example of McDonald's customers, it is the fastest way to
get from being hungry to being full.
Efficiency in McDonaldization means that every aspect of the
organization is geared toward the minimization of time.
Individuality is not allowed: instead of choosing your own
methods of efficiency, you are forced to accept the efficiency of
the surrounding institutions.
Look at this example: Ritzer uses the examples of salad bars: in
essence, with a salad bar, you buy an empty plate, go to the bar
and create the salad yourself. This is very efficient for the
restaurant, but makes more work for the consumer. In other
words you have to pay for the privilege of making your own salad.
Standardized and uniform services is Predictability which means
that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same
service and receive the same product every time when interacting
with the McDonaldized organization.
This also applies to the workers in those organizations. Their task
are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable.
A Big Mac is a Big Mac is a Big Mac.
Some people like this predictability, and would argue that it is a
good thing, you don't have to worry about eating a bad burger.
Burgers from one McDonald's to the next will taste the same.
Workers, don't have to worry about thinking for themselves, they
will have time to concentrate on other things, while they go
through the motions of performing their jobs.
But, is this predictability better? When you travel to a different
area, do you want the experience to be the same? If you are in
France, touring the city of Paris, do you really want to eat at
McDonald's? Doesn't that detract from the whole experience of a
It is true, many employees don't want to have to think while they
are working, but isn't a job that is challenging better?
Objective should be quantifiable (i.e., sales) rather than
subjective (i.e., taste).
McDonaldization developed the notion that quantity equals
quality, and that a large amount of product delivered to the
customer in a short amount of time is the same as a high quality
This allows people to quantify how much they're getting versus
how much they’re paying.
Organizations want consumers to believe that they are getting a
large amount of product for not a lot of money.
Workers in these organizations are judged by how fast they are
instead of the quality of work they do.
The final aspect of McDonaldization is control.
Control over both employees and customers because, "
[people are] the great source of uncertainty, unpredictability
and inefficiency in any rationalizing system...”
employees or the replacement of human by non-human
The substitution of more predictable non-human labor for
human labor, either through automation or the deskilling of
the work force.
I like big things
The size of them
Just give me plenty
Forget about the quality
And I like fast food
The burgers always
taste the same
No snotty waiters or
By now, you might be thinking that this all sounds pretty good.
After all, being more efficient is a good thing. Controlled,
consistent and measurable outcomes also sound good.
SO, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Look At this
It turns out that overrationalizing a process in this
manner has an unexpected
irrationality. In a sociological
context that simply means
that a rationalized system
may result in events or
outcomes that were neither
anticipated or desired, and in
fact, may not be so good.
Take the example of
restaurants. Where is
The premise of fast food often
turns out to be just the
opposite; long waits in lines.
Fast food is not necessarily
good food; in fact, McDonald's
food is extremely unhealthy
and the taste is average and
The system of efficiently
producing and distributing
their food has some other
millions of tons of trash each
year (disposability) and a
food cultivation system of
Post-Fordism is the name given to the dominant system of
economic production, consumption and associated socio-economic
phenomena, in most industrialized countries since the late 20th
century. It is contrasted with Fordism.
Post-Fordism brought on new ways of looking at consumption and
The saturation of key markets brought on a turn against mass
consumption and a pursuit of higher living standards.
This shift brought a change in how the market was
viewed from a production standpoint.
Rather than being viewed as a
mass market to be served by
viewed as different groups
pursuing different goals who
could be better served with
small batches of specialized
Mass markets became less
important while markets for
luxury, custom, or positional
diverse and differentiated as
organizations and economies
of scale were replaced with
organizations and economies
Post-Fordism is characterized by
the following attributes
Economies of scope.
Specialized products and jobs.
New information technologies.
Emphasis on types of consumers in contrast to previous emphasis
on social class.
The rise of the service and the white-collar worker.
The feminization of the work force.
Criticism of Post-Fordism
The main criticism of post-Fordism asserts that post-Fordism
mistakes the nature of the Fordism revolution and that Fordism
was not in crisis, but was simply evolving and will continue to
Other critics believe that post-Fordism does exist, but coexists
with Fordism: For example the automobile industry has combined
Fordism and post-Fordism strategies using both mass production
and flexible specialization. Ford introduced flexibility into mass
production, so that Fordism could continue to evolve.
Other criticisms argue that flexible specialization is not happening
on any great scale, and smaller firms have always existed
alongside mass production.