Contemporary Applications of Weber's Theory
How well do Weber's theory of rationality and his ideal type characteristics of bureaucracy withstand the test of time? More than a century later, many organizational theorists still apply Weber's perspective. For example, the sociologist George Ritzer used Weber's theories to examine fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's. According to Ritzer, the process of-McDonaldization become a global phenomenon as four elements of rationality can be found in fast-food restaurants and other "speedy" or "jiffy· businesses (such as Sir Speedy Printing and Jiffy Lube). Ritzer (2oo0a: 433) identifies four dimensions of formal rationality-efficiency, predictability, emphasis on quantity rather than quality and control through nonhuman technologies-that are found in todays fast-food restaurants: . Efficiency means the search for the best means to the end: in the fast-food restaurant, the drive through window is a good example of heightening the efficiency of obtaining a meal Predictability means a world of no surprises; the Big Mac in Los Angeles Is indistinguishable (from the one in New York; similarly, the one we consume tomorrow or next year will be just like the one we eat today. Rational systems tend to emphasize quantity, usually large quantities, rather than quality. The Big Mac is a good example of this emphasis on quantity rather than quality. Instead of the human qualities of a chef, fast-food restaurants rely on nonhuman technologies like unskilled cooks following detailed directions and assembly-line methods applied to the cooking and serving of food. Finally, such a formally rational system brings with it various irrationalities, most notably the demystification and dehumanization of the dining experience. Although still useful today. Weber's ideal type largely failed to take into account the informal side of bureaucracy.