by Mohamed ZayaniGeorge Ritzer's "The McDonaldization of Society" is a lucid, and, in many ways, provocative analysis of the increasing entrenchment and steady institutionalization of the logic and structure of McDonald's in almost all spheres of vital activities. For Ritzer, McDonald's is not simply in the restaurant business. Rather than an efficient, cheap, and fast meal, McDonald's offers a whole modus vivendi. This notorious chain has come to epitomize a scandalous and increasingly insistent phenomenon -- McDonaldization; that is, the ways in which the principles of the fast-food restaurant operate in an increasingly wide array of social settings (such as the work place, higher education, and health care). Contributing to the acceleration of these structural changes are several factors, the most important being: the aggressive seeking of economic interests, the pursuit of McDonaldization as an end in itself (and, in many ways, as an attachment to a traditional life style), and McDonaldization's attunement to certain changes taking place within society (namely, increased mobility, expanding needs, working parents, and technological changes).According to Ritzer, the socioeconomic structures adumbrated by the process of McDonaldization revolve around four interconnected principles: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. In a McDonaldizing society, the pressure for efficiency -- that is, the search for the optimum means for a given end -- is enormous. This pressure calls for increasing calculability -- that is, the emphasis on quantity rather than quality -- which in turn leads to a predictability that is enhanced all the more by the creation of precise, programmable, non-human technologies. This pursuit of systematization, standardization, consistency, scientific management, and methodological operation is itself motivated by the desire for greater control over people.Central to Ritzer's argument is Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy and the larger process of rationalization that underlies it. While for Weber bureaucracy is the model of rationalization, for Ritzer the fast food restaurant is the paradigm of McDonaldization. Both instances describe an organizational model that strives to eliminate inefficiency, irrationality, uncertainty, and unpredictability. It should not overhastily be concluded, however, that the two processes are the same. McDonaldization is not just an extension of rationalization, it is also an extreme version of it or, as Ritzer himself puts it, "a quantum leap" in the process of rationalization. Seen from this vantage point, Ritzer's project is not only an elaborate analysis of the McDonaldization of contemporary society, but also a pointed critique of the excesses of rationalization, in particular, and the legacy of modernity, in general. While many proclaim the end of modernity, Ritzer argues for its continuing strong hold. His book takes issue with the common view that we live in an era that is radically different from the previous one: "a number of contemporary perspectives, especially postindustrialism, post-Fordism, and postmodernism contend that we have already moved beyond the modern world and into a new, starkly different society. These views imply that this book is retrograde because it deals with a 'modern' phenomenon that will soon disappear with the emergence of a new societal form. This book contends, however, that McDonaldization and its 'modern' characteristics not only are here for the foreseeable future, but also are influencing society at an accelerating rate." While other sociologists emphasize a shift in modern society from uniformity, predictability, and standardization to contingency, uncertainty, and deregulation, Ritzer emphasizes the increasing domination of a system -- that is, McDonaldization -- that is built on many of the ideas that have prevailed in industrial societies, namely bureaucratization, the assembly line, and scientific management.
In the rationalized settings imposed by McDonaldization people be-have not as human beings but as functions of the system. A McDonaldized society is not just a panoptic society a la Foucault -- that is, a society that is structured around quasi-utilitarian principles and based on self-policing -- but also a dehumanizing society: "though it at least appears that people still control them, these rational systems can spin beyond the control of even those who occupy the highest positions within those systems." Because red tape can render bureaucracies increasingly inefficient and unpredictable, individuals become both confused and counterproductive. The anger and frustration generated by the inadequacies of nonhuman technologies can even lead people to undercut or sabotage the operation of such technologies.
Wilhelm Reich and Sexual PoliticsIn his search to uncover and analyse the still obscure relationship between "social being" and "consciousness", the German Marxist and psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich, published his important study Massenpsychologie des Faschismus (The Mass Psychology of Fascism) in 1933, causing his expulsion from the German communist party. Reich attempted to explain Fascism broadly in the form of a bizarre political economy of sex. Elaborating on themes drawn principally from Freud and Engels, he defined fascism as a political manifestation of the psychology of the broad masses frustrated in successive and failed attempts at collective action to attain the democratisation of society in their own interests. Reich's thesis was that sexual inhibition, rooted in the authoritarian family (repressing infant masturbation and the sexual intercourse between adolescents), was ultimately the cause of the authoritarian state's structure and fascist ideology. There was more than a whiff of Saussure-like determinism in this aspect of Reich's work. Reich argued that the Freudian unconscious, characterised as the antisocial element in the human structure, is simply a secondary result of the repression of primary biological impulses by the authoritarian family which is at root of the authoritarian state. Exactly as the patriarchal authority of the father requires sexual abstention on the part of women and children in the family, so too authoritarianism and nationalism are a continuation of these repressed family ties at the level of state structures, holding back democratisation and true freedom. Even modern imperialism is liked back to inter-family rivalry – characterised as "family imperialism".According to Reich, World War I provided the crucial external stimulus to move this family repression into a new and fascist phase, as it put paid to many of the already decaying authoritarian institutions in Europe and underlay a subsequent attempt on the part of European democracies to lead humanity toward genuine freedom. Instead this process unleashed a "psychic plague" in which forces long repressed by the superficial layer of good manners and the domination of an artificial Ego, which were carried by the same multitudes that searched for freedom, cleared a path toward [fascist] action. Fascism is seen as differing from other reactionary parties in that it is championed by the masses. As a consequence it betrays all the characteristics and contradictions present in the character structure of the modern mass individual. Consequently fascism is not, as is commonly believed, a purely reactionary movement - it represents an amalgam of rebellious emotions and reactionary social ideas. Thus, for Reich fascist mentality is the mentality of the "little man," who is enslaved and craves authority and is at the same time rebellious.
The belief that violence is a reasonable and often necessary route to achieving our aims goes unquestioned in most societies. Violence is thought to be the nature of things. It's what works. It seems inevitable -- the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today. Walter Wink, a professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in N.Y.C., in an article first published by Bible Society's Spring 1999 issue of The Bible in TransMission, further expalains that our very origin is violence. Killing is in our genes. Humanity is not the originator of evil, but merely finds evil already present and perpetuates it. Human beings are thus naturally incapable of peaceful coexistence. Order must continually be imposed upon us from on high: men over women, masters over slaves, priests over laity, aristocrats over peasants, rulers over people. Unquestioning obedience is the highest virtue, and order the highest religious value. In short, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the ideology of conquest. Ours is neither a perfect nor perfectible world, but a theater of perpetual conflict in which the prize goes to the strong. Peace through war, security through strength: these are the core convictions that arise from this ancient historical religion. The Babylonian myth is as universally present today as at any time in its long and bloody history. It is the dominant myth in contemporary America.
[...] men are not gentle creatures, who want to be loved, who at most defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him."
Quote[...] men are not gentle creatures, who want to be loved, who at most defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him."According to Freud, human civilisation is based, and has to be based, on the repression of the basic "sexual" or "instinctual" energy he believed humans to have. What happened, in Freud's view, was that this repressed sexual energy was diverted into the work which had to be engaged in to produce the things humans needed to survive and build up the material side of civilisation.
I actually think these numbers are encouraging. Over half of law students and lawyers are NOT depressed or suicidal. Sounds fairly unalarming to me.Besides, what's the take-home message here? Should we labor to make the study and practice of law like baking a f*king cake so that every backwoods Tom, male private part, and Oprah can practice law? Would that serve clients well? It's hard and stressful for a reason. LAW IS IMPORTANT TO OUR SOCIETY! We have to get it right.
[...] Second, the contingent-worth and top-ten percent paradigms create tension by generating insecurity about future employment, competition between peers, a sense that one's worth is only as good as one's transcript and resume, and that, regardless of the rhetoric of professionalism, that personal character, values, ideals and intentions are irrelevant in the practice of law. Schools with a mandatory or strongly suggested grading curve aggravate this effect by creating the impression that the institution is pitting students against each other. [...]
Herbert Marcuse has in fact explained why people accept capitalism -- they have been psychologically manipulated into wanting it. In other words, their basic "instincts" have been remoulded so as to fit in with capitalist society. The issue now is how will such people come to want to get rid of capitalism.
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