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The changing nature of consumption and the intensification of McDonaldization in the digital age

Ritzer, G and Miles, S (2019) The changing nature of consumption and the intensification of McDonaldization in the digital age. Journal of Consumer Culture, 19 (1). pp. 3-20. ISSN 1469-5405

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Abstract

© The Author(s) 2018. In this article, we re-examine the McDonaldization thesis in light of social changes that occurred since the 1990s and notably in light of the onset of digital forms of consumption. The argument is presented that while the theory of McDonaldization remains profoundly relevant to the consumption of bricks-and-mortar locales, it is even more applicable in the digital age, as well as “bricks-and-clicks” consumption sites. The ways in which McDonaldization is played out in three iconic companies, namely, McDonalds, Amazon, and Wal-Mart is critically interrogated. On this basis, the article seeks to understand what the intensification of McDonaldization means for our understanding of the contemporary consumption experience. Arguing that theories are routinely outpaced by the pace of social change, we contend that the digital speeds up processes of rationalization while intensifying levels of consumption. The article concludes by reflecting on what this might mean given that we now live in an age of networked individualism, for our understanding of the relationship between place and consumption: the degree to which digital platforms appear to consumers to be “natural” and thus ideologically powerful, being of particular concern. For this reason, we suggest that the McDonaldization thesis is, in fact, more relevant in the digital future than it was in the bricks-and-mortar past.

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