11/05/04 - 7-8 PM: Art, McDonaldization and the Globalization of Society

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 11/06/2004 - 08:02.

November 5, 2002 from 7 - 8 PM: Session 2 - Featured Speaker

As part of this exciting event, the CIA brought renowned writer and social theorist George Ritzer to speak about "Art,
McDonaldization and the Globalization of
Society". I had the pleasure to attend, and share the following observations about how his presentation fits our interest of nurturing regional economic development.

Sociology Professor George Ritzer is the
author of numerous books, including The
McDonaldization of Society (1993, 1996,
2000, 2004; translated into a dozen languages);
Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption (1999); McDonaldization: The Reader
(2002); and The Globalization of Nothing (2004). He also edited The Blackwell
Companion to Major Social Theorists (2000), as well as The Handbook of
Social Theory (2001), and is co-founding editor of the Journal of Consumer

For his talk, Ritzer wove the fit of art and the artist into the concepts of McDonaldization and globalization of nothing, concluding if anything may escape these socially and regional economy destructive patterns it is art. McDonaldization deals with the application of process control to services, reflected in the disintegration of individuality in creation and delivery of services, reducing products, employees and customers down to identity-less nodes of automated supply chains - food becomes feed, cooks become assemblers, and diners become sheep. The Globalization of Nothing takes the concept to the exploration of outcomes of McDonaldization, being that it produces standardized products and services indistinguishable wherever produced and delivered - a complete loss of localization. These topics get to the heart of the argument against "Big Box" consumerism and sprawl vs. individuality and the importance of people and place, and highlight many reasons our local economy is failing - and surface solutions.

While the professor identified aspects of the arts which are being McDonaldized, reducing art to nothingness (e.g. the production "artist" Kinkade - now apparently found in1 in 20 American households - and the anti-individuality art factory art.com), Ritzer concludes if anything on Earth challenges McDonaldization and retains "specialness" it is fine art - the artist typically creates localized, unique and special products and services intrinsically opposed to standardization and nothingness.

Some observations. First, compliments to the CIA and event organizer Rita Goodman for bringing to Cleveland a remarkable field of artists, theorists and participants - many people traveled to Cleveland for the event, helping our economy, and all attendees gained insight that makes them and this region more special.

Being in agreement with Professor Ritzer, I see the issues of McDonaldization as a challenge to our specialness, as our region's people are consumed by the consumption of globalized nothingness - from shopping at nothing malls and globalized big box retailers and eating nothing good at McDonaldized chain restaurants to moving to McMansions in McSuburbs - our people are become nothing. With "Cleveland" being a place made up of millions of unique people from all over the world, making our region a patchwork of diverse cultures and so potentially very special, the disintegration of our place and identity into globalized, McDonaldized nothingness is tragic. That is said without considering that all our people are physically and economically harmed by this nothingness - none of which originates here. Our people are buying unnecessary and ecologically destructive bric-a-brac from socially unconscious anti-individuals, eating poor quality, chemically processed, dangerous anti-food prepared by poorly compensated assembly-line production workers, and abandoning historically important and craftsperson built homes in sociable communities for undistinguished, cheaply constructed palaces in recently bulldozed forests and now purposeless farmland, equaling suburban sprawl, ecological trauma and economic disaster for our region.

Bright lights found here are our artists - so many artists - nurtured at great art schools in the region, like the CIA, and great arts educators, like Mary Beth Matthews, at Max Hayes of the Cleveland Public Schools. They all are sources of specialness for our region, and potentials for diverse, unique economic excellence for our future. Unfortunately, the audience was largely artists so Professor Ritzer's message was only heard by champions of specialness - a preacher singing to the choir,. While that is great for those artists, always needing affirmation to stay special in a nothingness world, until regional leaders and citizens realize making "NEO" a nothing place is our ultimate undoing - that what is most valuable for our place and economy is keeping NEO special, and nurturing special people like our artists, our economy will fail.

This is an especially important consideration as we approach the holiday shopping season, as the 1,000,000s of McDonaldized "Clevelanders" of this region will spend $1 billion in nothing places buying nothing, and our 1,000s of artists will struggle to spread their specialness and survive.

My sugestion for all, for the holidays, is to celebrate our specialness and buy local art.  

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