Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Globalization of Nothing

I'm finding that time spent on the treadmill is an opportune time for reading, and spent the week reading George Ritzer's The Globalization of Nothing.

Ritzer teaches at the University of Maryland, and is best known for his work on McDonaldization, which he defines as "the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society, as well as the rest of the world." He builds on Max Weber's theory of formal rationality, which lies at the roots of the modern bureaucracy, and is marked by efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. The side effect, or the 'iron cage' of rationality, is that an environment marked by these qualities can quickly dehumanize and strip persons of their identity. Ritzer sees Weber's theory enfleshed in McDonalds, and spent the bulk of The McDonaldization of Society examining the effect of McDonaldization.

A chapter in the earlier work focused upon the links between McDonaldization and globalization, a phenomenon which has left no part of the world unaffected. The Globalization of Nothing focuses more closely on the matter, and Ritzer builds on Roland Robertson's concept of glocalization, or the integration between local and global elements to create unique outcomes in different locations. Ritzer suggests a counterpart, grobalization, by which he means the subsumption of the local into a global power, be it a corporation, nation, or organization, with a byproduct being the loss of unique local flavor in a homogenous world. Ritzer sees McDonaldization, capitalism, and Americanization as central elements of grobalization, particularly the grobalization of 'nothing,' or 'social forms which are centrally conceived, controlled and comparatively devoid of distinctive substantive content (3),' which is contrasted with 'something,' forms which are indigenously conceived and controlled, and comparatively rich in substantive content. Ritzer focuses his attention upon the glocalization of something and the grobalization of nothing, and sees the latter as a dominant trend in our world, which is becoming increasingly homogeneous.

While i am neither a trained sociologist nor an economist, I find Ritzer's theses attractive in their perceptivity, if frightening in their implication. I'd recommend his works, both for analysis and for readability, and have him on my short list of 'thinkers and authors to follow.'

Connected trains of thought for me relate to rationalization, and my mixed feelings on the subject, the use of marketing techniques within churches and the question of just what makes us distinctive, and the role of the powers in light of global capitalism, drawing from the work of John Howard Yoder and Walter Wink. Two related books on the topic which i plan to read soon are Exporting the American Gospel and The McDonaldization of the Church, the latter written by John Drane, who is lecturing at Fuller this quarter, along with his wife Olive.

More later; this post is merely an introduction to vital terms for understanding the conversation.



  • At 6:16 PM, Blogger sam andress said…

    Mike -

    Thanks for referencing me on your blog! I'm glad I found yours! Hey this is an interesting topic. I read Drane's book and it is a good creative approach to the situation.

    By the way how can I email you? I'd like to get some advice on how to make changes to my blog format.

  • At 12:22 AM, Blogger work said…

    Hey Sam,
    Just started Drane this weekend, and have found his analysis of our situation quite helpful. Looking forward to reading further and discussing.

    Best way to email me is onemikework at


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