Post-Fordism or McDonaldism

Fordism implied a mass-market product, inflexible technology; Taylorism in simplifying work practices (economies of scale and deskilling) and mass consumption.

Post-Fordism suggests a variety of goods, shorter production runs and changing technology, skilled and empowered working practices rejecting economies of scale, and all dependent on varied patterns of consumption.

Now this is the industrial and economic arm of postmodernism. But it is rejected in certain quarters by proponents of McDonaldism.

There is no clear break with Fordism, because McDonaldism implies a continued regular and reliable product everywhere to everyone. Secondly, the technology that produces the same product must be repeated everywhere. The tasks that workers do, even in talking to customers, is the same and repeated. Consumption itself is regulated - and when people have eater they get out of the café. (Ritzer, 1996, 150-153)

However, against this is another term "Sneakerisation" where one product that is the same is essentially diversified through brand because of the post-Fordist impact. There's an "agile marketplace" (149-150). So this post-Fordism stands alongside McDonaldisation. It's also still possible to advance diversity and work practices too on limited products (eg 153).

Whether McDonaldism is used as a postmodernist or modernist thesis depends upon the extremity of the postmodernism pursued (154). Industrially, McDonaldism suggests modernism, but on the basis of superficiality it suggests postmodernism (156) - fleeting and superficial relations with the product. Expression and emotion have gone (157) with a bizarre sense of excitement. It's also postmodern by being ahistorical (157-158) and beyond space (159) so that no one knows where they may be anywhere in the world.

From a research point of view this is an argument about interpretation of the present condition. Is it modernist or is it postmodernist can only be decided by argument in relationship to selected data. Why pick McDonalds alone - some people prefer the café where there is a relationship, and it sits "next door" to McDonalds. Some go to other fast food with no loyalty to McDonalds (157). There are very important implications in the marketing of tourism, marketing by branding in general, product control, production organisation, empowerment and the lack of neutrality in information and its commodifying.

The above relates to Jameson's five basic elements of postmodernity - late capitalism, superficiality, fragmented impersonal lack of affection yet with intensities (hyper-emotion), reproductive technologies (Jameson, 1984, 1991). It's important to add dimensions of space and time disorientation as a separate category.

I think Ritzer's use of Jameson is better and Jameson on his own terms is quite weak in parts because some arguments suggest modernism.


Jameson, F. (1984), 'Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', New Left Review, 146, 53-92.

Jameson, F. (1991), Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham: Duke University Press.

Ritzer, G. (1996), The McDonaldisation of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life, Revised Edition, London: Pine Forge Press.