Friday, February 24, 2012

Supersize Me...Not

Currently in class we are learning about organizations in general, what they are, and what they mean.  An organization was said to be in the most general terms a collection of people and or resources working together to achieve a common goal.  We talked specifically about organizations as a machine. Meaning that we work should be based off of efficiency.  I’m not saying machine will eventually replace man, like noted in the movie The Terminator  and start an all out nuclear war, decimating any remaining humans, but instead in order to function more efficiently we must work like a machine.  The organization that works like a machine in essence becomes one.

Personally I don’t like McDonald’s or any fast food for that matter but McDonald’s has found a way to be successful in society despite feeding its customers poison, however that is a whole different matter not worth discussing right now.  How did they do this you may ask?  As an organization they function like a machine.  They are speedy, efficient, and work almost like an assembly line.  Similar to mass other mass producing manufacturers McDonald’s is meant to work at the most efficient pace while expending the fewest resources (maybe why their food tastes like dirt).  To say the least we are seeing what is been coined the McDonaldization effect on society take place.  We see it in a lot of everyday life organizations.   Sociologist George Ritzer coined the term McDonaldization as the process by which the principles of fast food chains are coming to dominate the social world.  He went on to note that there are four key components for McDonaldization, and they are efficiency, calculability, predictability and control.
When the McDonaldization approach is used on criminal justice we see some positive notions.  Sure we want the justice system to be efficient for obvious reasons.  If it wasn’t efficient then how would we keep society from becoming chaotic?  The criminal justice system needs to be calculable, based on the notion that what we do can be measured and experimented on, and thus resulting in an effort to improve or maintain normal functions.  It’s important for criminal justice to be predictable, because in my opinion that’s a segway into deterrence.  If you can predict that if you get caught you will go to jail, then there’s a less likely chance you will offend.  Lastly, control is important because we want to do just that, control society, but by doing so, keeping it safe.
However many negatives can come out of these components, the most glaring being that because of the McDonaldization effect criminal justice is so focused on these four components it will rest at nothing to achieve the most out of each even if it means that justice itself takes a back seat.  Regarding calculability, take for example the prison situation.  Our outlook on the get tough on crime advocates throwing everybody in jail.  This obviously leads to overcrowding and let’s be honest, there are some crimes that shouldn’t require jail time, but are receiving it.  Take the example of selective observation for police work in the predictability component.  Police predict that all cars that have rims and blast loud music are going to commit or are involved in crime.  This may be true, but some other crime may be overlooked.  The control component can be seen as faulty when you look at prisons being built.  McDonald’s tricks people into paying larger amounts for larger portions of fries, i.e. supersize.  Same is true with super-max prisons.  A good portion of these offenders end up back in society but tax payers still pay the outrageous cost to institutionalize them in the fancy new multi-million dollar prisons.
Is McDonaldization really efficient? It does bring some positive aspects to the criminal justice system, but at the same time certain components of justice are overlooked.  We have to find a happy medium of the most efficient way to carry out justice.


  1. McDonaldization is an interesting thing, particularly as it pertains to criminal justice. In today's society it is easy to see McDonaldization; however, I wish we did not see it is criminal justice as readily as we do. It is easy to recognize this sociological issue simply by looking at prosecution. We continuously see people being pushed through the system with minimal consequence and little deterrence.

    I fear the the efficiency element of McDonalidization will be the last to change because I do not think or society will allow the criminal justice system to become inoperably inefficient. Calculablility, Predictablility, and Control are elements which I believe the criminal justice will continue to McDonalize. This McDonaldization will occur for reason similar to McDonalization of business. The financial aspect of the system will drive the operational apsect. With going into criminal justice, this is something we should all be concerned with if we want to assure out profession do not be a "machine."

  2. Apparently on judgment day, the ATMs lead the charge. :-)

    Sorry, could not help myself.

    The biggest problem with McDonaldization in CJ is that as we focus more and more on efficiency, we lose any sense of justice.

  3. First off, I just want to say....McDouble with big mac sauce is a blessing. On a more serious note, I have to say that I liked this blog post because you talked about both the positives and negatives to McDonaldization in the criminal justice system. With all these politicians and higher officials wanting to get tough on crime and have a more serious approach to war or crime, we can see us getting more and more 'stuck' in this never ending McDonaldization. In my opinion, the worst and most damaging part about McDonaldization in the criminal justice system that you did not mention is that fact that this structure is built to keep criminals in the system the same way that McDonald's is built to keep their workers at their chains.