The Age Of Reflection had the privilege to interview George Ritzer, a prominent Sociologist and author of The McDonaldization of Society.
In your book The McDonaldization of Society, is your emphasis on the politico-economic aspect of the process or the symbolic aspect? What future do you envision in regards to this McDonaldization process in such a multi-cultural and polarized world? Is our world still exposed to Hyper Rationality and McDonalidization?
Both. McDonaldized systems have political and economic aspects and implications; they are material realities that have material effects. In a multi-cultural and polarized world, there will resistance to the McDonaldized systems created in the dominant societies and cultures. However, to function successfully in the modern world all systems must McDonaldized to some degree (e.g. ISIS’s use of the internet, encryption, etc.). Yes, the world is still exposed to increasing rationalization (McDonaldization) and even hyper-rationalization.
How would you explain Hyper Rationality in today's world - by that I mean what are today's political, economic and cultural appearances?
In our pursuit of ever-more rationality, we are always “pushing the envelope”, pushing the limits. In so doing we create systems that are more rational than rational, Hyperrational. Perhaps the best example today is Artificial Intelligence and the creation of robots that may be able to outthink humans.
In 1996, Peter L Berger, in an article for the National Interest, stated that the radical fundamentalism of groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are somehow the results of secularization - do you think ISIS and today's ideology of terror in the MENA are products of the "irrationality of rationality"?
No, I would see them more as a reaction against the McDonaldization of society. As a result, they- especially their extremism- are examples of some of the irrational consequences of rationalization.
Jean Baudrillard in his Consumer Society, defined consumerism by the needs are more directed on values than the objects. If we accept this definition, how do you explain the link in between politics and cultural concepts in US policies?
To Baudrillard, consumption is not about needs because if it was, we would stop when our needs are met. Of course, we continue to consume well beyond that point.
I do not understand the second question. In general, capitalist societies need people to consume (consumption is more important than production in advanced capitalist societies). Both the cultural and political system support consumption, although sometimes in different ways and to varying degrees.
Some theorists, such as Robert Bocock, believe that "the changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the late 1980s partly derived from the attractions of capitalism in the eyes of many living in these former communist societies." Now, can we say that the same pattern has been used and reflected in US policies toward Iran and Cuba?
It has less to do with US policies than the attractions of capitalism to people, especially in the realm of consumption. For better or worse, many throughout the world (including in Iran and Cuba) would like to be able to consume in the way, and at the level, that Americans consume. I am critical of that level of consumption if for no other reason than it is not ecologically sustainable, but it is an irresistible model to millions throughout the world.