Rebelling against McDonaldization of Agriculture
Institute of Sociology Universität Leipzig Leipzig, Germany
So far, George Ritzer´s theory of McDonaldization has been applied to a wide variety of domains of social life such as family, sex, recreation, and labor processes. With a special focus on Germany, we will first sketch how the theory of McDonaldization may fruitfully be applied to industrial agriculture with both its rationalities and irrationalities. Second, in the main part of the paper we will discuss the organic movement as part of rebellion against McDonaldization from a theoretical and empirical perspective. Third, we evaluate the usefulness of Ritzer´s theory. Empirical (multivariate) analyses with respect to organic-food consumption are based on the nationwide representative surveys "Environmental Awareness in Germany 2004 and 2006". We use three dependent variables which function as proxies for organic-food consumption: (1) how often respondents purchase certified food; (2) how often respondents purchase products directly from organic farms; (3) whether respondents can imagine buying genetically modified food. In line with other studies of pro-environmental behavior it turns out that the purchase of organic food is affected by economic aspects (that is, income), by environmental attitudes, social norms, education, and gender. There are also interesting rural-urban effects with respect to places where respondents grew up compared to where they are living now. Our results suggest that people socialized in rural areas in general as well as women, higher educated people, people with a higher income, environmentally conscious people, and those rewarded by their social environment for pro-environmental behavior in particular constitute the social basis of rebellion against McDonaldization. Yet, a discussion as to whether the organic-food movement tends to become McDonalized itself (e.g. large organic supermarket chains) seems also necessary. Regarding the usefulness of Ritzer´s theory we argue that modern agriculture can be accurately characterized by the process of McDonaldization concerning both production and consumption practices. However, it should not be called a theory (e.g. there is no clear possibility to falsify it). Nevertheless, future research might profit from a direct application or operationalization of the dimensions of McDonaldization in surveys.