Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization

By Ulrich Beck; Natan Sznaider et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Assessing McDonaldization,
Americanization and Globalization
George Ritzer and Todd Stillman

The Globalization Debate

New or changing cultural phenomena ignite competition among traditions of social theory. These contests often result in a plurality of descriptions of the defining characteristics of the contemporary scene. Most recently, contending perspectives on the globalization debate have emerged and seem unresolvable. The macro-phenomenology of globalization has had tremendous contemporary resonance.1Globalization is a fully fledged buzzword, referring, as often as not, to the blending of cultures in the global marketplace and in the transnational media.2 The idea of McDonaldization has also had a profound cultural resonance. Students, activists and the general public (not to mention social thinkers: see Smart 1999; Alfino et al. 1998) have found the idea of McDonaldization useful for describing everything from religion (Drane 2000) to the university (Parker and Jary 1995) to museums (Kirchberg 2000). Finally, the idea of Americanization has mobilized debate and resistance in Europe, Asia and South America (Kuisel 1993). In this essay, we discuss the relationships among these three perspectives and analyse the degree to which they can be integrated.

The ideas of McDonaldization and Americanization are at odds, to some degree, with the characterizations of globalization that have the greatest cachet today. There is a gulf between those who see the consequence of global capitalism as an increasingly Americanized and/or rationalized world and those who

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1
This tendency is counterbalanced by a pronounced strain of realist political and economic analysis (see, for example, Chase-Dunn 1989).
2
‘Globalization’ also refers to the increasing power of capitalism—bolstered by neo-liberal economic policy—on the world scene. It can also refer to the growth of transnational governance. In this essay, however, we focus on the culture of globalization.

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