© 2007 - Ben Heine
Globalization of McDonalds

A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others is defined as having power ( In the minds of most it is the political leaders and governments have power over the people. However, many institutions and business corporations we may not think of also hold a lot of the world’s power. Unfortunately, through globalization corporations such as McDonalds are attempting to Americanize the whole world. Human societies across the globe have established progressively closer contacts over many centuries, but recently the pace has dramatically increased. Jet airplanes, cheap telephone service, email, computers, huge oceangoing vessels, instant capital flows, all these have made the world more interdependent than ever. Multinational corporations manufacture products in many countries and sell to consumers around the world. Money, technology and raw materials continually move across national borders. Along with products and finances, ideas and cultures circulate more freely. As a result, laws, economies, and social movements are forming at the international level. Many politicians, academics, and journalists treat these trends as both inevitable and welcomed. But for billions of the world’s people, business-driven globalization means uprooting old ways of life and threatening livelihoods and cultures. The global social justice movement, itself a product of globalization, proposes an alternative path, more responsive to public needs. Intense political disputes will continue over globalization’s meaning and its future direction. (link)

The biggest multinational companies are very rich. Of the 100 biggest economies in the world, just over half are companies rather than whole countries. The 200 biggest companies control a quarter of all the world’s trade. These 200 companies have more than half the economic power over four billion people. Multinational companies, like all companies, want to make profits. Their profits will be affected by the level of taxes in a country, how well skilled the workforce is, how easy it is to find sites to build factories, and even how strong a country's currency is. This means governments will think carefully about their economic policies. For example, a multinational may decide to close a factory in one country because it is cheaper to make its products in another. This can mean hundreds or thousands of jobs will be lost. It can mean that countries have a tendency to weaken rules about working conditions in order to attract multinational investment. In less developed countries dependence on multinational companies for investment and jobs is proportionately even greater. In these countries employees often work harder, for less money and in poorer conditions. Because of the importance of the companies, governments in these countries may be less willing to press for better wages and working conditions for their workers.

In poor countries vast areas of land are used for cash crops or for cattle ranching, or to grow grain to feed animals to be eaten in the West. This is at the expense of local food needs. McDonald's continually promote meat products, encouraging people to eat meat more often, which waste more and more food resources. According to the London Green Peace Group some 'Third World' countries, where most children are undernourished, are actually exporting their staple crops as animal feed to fatten the cattle being into burgers in the 'First World'. Millions of acres of the best farmland in poor countries are being used for United State’s benefit by means of tea, coffee, and tobacco, while people there are starving. McDonald's is directly involved in this economic imperialism, which keeps 7 million tons of grain fed to livestock produces only 1 million tons of meat and by-products. On a plant-based diet and with land shared fairly, almost every region could be self-sufficient in food (link). McDonalds not only effects the economic position of people in foreign countries, but it also affects American ranches and McDonald’s employees economically.

McDonald's comes in, saying that the brand will bring many jobs. Beef producers, flourishing for years, now have McDonald's as their only market. In 1968, McDonald’s bought ground beef from 175 local suppliers. A few years later, seeking to achieve greater product uniformity as it expanded, McDonalds reduced the number of beef suppliers to five. In the United States many ranchers now argue that few large corporations have gained stranglehold on the market using unfair tactics to drive down the price of cattle (Schlosser, 134). The four major meatpacking companies now control about 20 percent of the live cattle in the US through “captive supplies” cattle that are either maintained in company owned feedlots or purchased in advance. When cattle prices start to rise, the large meatpackers can flood the market with their own captive supplies driving prices back down. The suicide rate among ranchers and farmers in the United States is now about three times higher than the national average. A 1996 USDA investigation of concentration in the beef industry found that many ranchers were afraid to testify against the large meatpacking companies, fearing retaliation and “economic ruin.” When Mike Callicrate, a cattleman from St. Francis Kansas, decided to speak out against corporate behavior before the USDA committee, the large meatpackers promptly stopped bidding on his cattle (Schlosser, 143)

Outside the United States, Jamaicans not allowed to use cancer-causing agents in their burgers. McDonald's imports the beef from a country or free zone where cancer can legally go into the food. Therefore Jamaican beef producers have no market, and cannot export so the business dies. People line up at McDonald's for cancer, driven by global advertising. No native farming, no native products, nothing left but McDonald's.

According to George Ritzer, “The fundamental problem with McDonaldisation is that it's other people in the system structuring our lives for us, rather than us structuring our lives for ourselves…You don't want a creative person at the counter - that's why they are scripted. You don't want a creative hamburger cook - you want somebody who simply follows routines or follows scripts. No, you take all creativity out of work and turn it into a series of routine procedures that are imposed by some external force. That's the reason why it's dehumanizing... it turns human beings into human robots"

Not surprisingly staff turnover at McDonald's is high, making it virtually impossible to unionize and fight for a better deal, which suits McDonald's who have always been opposed to Unions. A recent survey of workers in burger-restaurants found that 80% said they needed union help over pay and conditions. McDonald's have a policy of preventing unionization by getting rid of pro-union workers. So far this has succeeded everywhere in the world except Sweden, and in Dublin after a long struggle Green Pease Group). In February of 1997 workers at a McDonald’s in St Hubert, Canada, applied to join the Teamsters union. More than three quarter of the crewmembers signed union cards, hoping to create the only unionized McDonalds in North America. Tom and mike Cappelli closed the McDonalds just weeks before the union was certified. This was not the first time this happened, during the early 1970s workers in Lansing Michigan were organizing a union. All the crewmembers were fired and the restaurant was shut down, a new McDonalds was build down the block and the unionizing workers were not rehired (Schlosser, 77)

As a global and national economic power, McDonalds negatively affects the lives of people in foreign countries as well as people in the United States. Because multinational companies want trade across the world to be free from restrictions as much as possible they are likely to use their influence with the World Trade Organization to get restrictions on manufacturing and trade reduced to a minimum. Is McDonalds so powerful that nothing can restrain the terror it forces upon the world’s people?

Globalization is political in the sense that the dominant powers insist on the adoption of certain versions of their policies and values for example, the adoption of liberal democracy and opening up of economies. This meant national states increasingly restructuring their position and their responsibilities in relation to both the global capitalism and to the local economies and societies. This tendency towards homogenization of politics seeks to form a world government with singular security, army, and judiciary branches with most of its important institutions located in the west. Globalization in this sense is referred to as hegemonisation (link).

Behind the smiling face of Ronald McDonald lurks a self-important and singularly determined multi-national corporation that wields serious power over national governments. McDonalds doesn't only convert its influence into political clout. It uses its dollars and donations to target the most vulnerable people in society. Ronald McDonald has a proven policy of suing the ass off of you or your employer, if you, as they put it, "tell lies about the company". McDonalds has even threatened to sue perfectly credible media institutions such as the BBC and the Guardian. This indicates that they are trying to stop the expression of free speech, a civil liberty, at least insofar as it affects their commercial operations. The list of media organizations that have been suppressed or pulped is growing (link).

In 1986, the London Green Peace group published a leaflet titled, "What's wrong with McDonalds". When the leaflet came to their attention, McDonalds demanded they retract the leaflet and its allegations or face court with the obvious possibility of a huge costs, they were denied legal aid, incurred by facing some of the top legal players money can buy. Two individuals from the group, Dave Morris, a postman, and Helen Steel, a gardener, felt they had no choice but to face McDonalds in court. On the 28th June 1994 the libel trial began in London and ended up becoming the longest ever seen in a British court. It's now known as the "McLibel" trial. The defendant's legal costs of £35,000 were met by generous donations by members of the public. On the 19th June 1997 McDonalds were awarded damages of £90,000 for certain items in the leaflet concerning the health implications of eating at a McDonalds restaurant and its role in Third World starvation and environmental damage, which remained 'not proven'. The Judge agreed that "McDonalds advertisements, promotions and booklets have pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which McDonald's food did not match" and that the firm "paid its workers low wages, thereby helping to depress wages for workers in the catering trade".

The current government is happy to let McDonalds participate in the education of the country's schoolchildren. In 1998, David Blunkett and Steven Byers, Ministers of State for education and industry, permitted the corporation to be a partner in the North Somerset Education action zone. In 1999, the National Year of Reading Received support in the form of branded lunchboxes. During the McLibel trial Dave Morris, claimed in court that the firm sees schoolchildren as the next generation of cheap labor as well as consumers. In summing up, the judge agreed that McDonalds influence on the young was remarkable, commenting that the fast food chain targets "susceptible young children to bring in custom, both their own and that of their parents".

McDonalds is so politically powerful that it can sue anyone and get away with it even if the information that they are suing over is true. Just because the information in the London Green Peace Group leaflet wasn’t proven true doesn’t mean it couldn’t be proven true. But the little people can never be correct when going up against the huge capital of the McDonalds Corporation.

Globalization also impacts cultures. It tends to promote homogeneity towards western and American values and influences. In this sense, some see globalization as westernization or even Americanization. They cite, among others, instances of expansion of coca cola, McDonalds, and the rock-and-roll music relayed by adverts, radio, and global satellite television. Such expansion, they argue, happens at the expense of local cultures that are the sources of diversities.

George Ritzer say, “I think that McDonald's has a profound effect on the way people do a lot of things I mean it leads people to want everything fast, to have, you know, a limited attention span so that kind of thing spills over onto, let's say, television viewing or newspaper reading, and so you have a short attention span, you want everything fast, so you don't have patience to read the New York Times and so you read McPaper, you read USA today. You don't have patience to watch a lengthy newscast on a particular issue so you watch CNN News and their little news McNugget kinds of things so it creates a kind of mindset, which seeks the same kind of thing in one setting after another. I see it in education where you have, in a sense, a generation of students who've been raised in a McDonaldised society, they want things fast, they want idealic nuggets from Professors, they don't want sort of slow build up of ideas, you gotta keep them amused, you gotta come in with the Ronald McDonald costume and quip a series of brilliant theoretical points or else they're going to turn you off” (link).

According to George Ritzer in other countries when going into a McDonalds, it's not just that you are buying a product, but you are buying into a system. In the 1940s there was a big flap in France over what was called a Coca Colonization. The French were very upset about the coming of Coca Cola to France. They felt it threatened the French wine industry and French way of life. But that was just the influx of an American product. Now, with McDonalds, we have the influx of an American way of life, which is to trivialize eating, to make it something that is fast, make it something that's to get done and over with. But it's striking to me that the last time I was in Paris the Parisians appeared to have embraced this kind of fast food phenomenon. You have developments of fast food croissanteries where this model French way of life and the croissanterie has been reduced to fast food. French bread is more and more treated on a fast basis rather than lots of local bakeries baking their own distinctive kind, so if the French succumb to this in the realm of food there is little that is safe from the expansion of this process.

Within this world, however, McDonalds has sufficient influence to actually change established dietary practices across whole regions. For example, according to "Behind the Arches", a book authorized by McDonalds in 1987, McDonalds in Japan faced a fundamental challenge of establishing beef as a common food. Their president Den Fujita stated “the reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years, if we eat McDonalds hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white and our hair blonde.” McDonalds also changed eating habits in Australia, Peter Ritchie, at the time McDonalds Australian president has stated he attributes “that change to the influence McDonalds has on children.” "Behind the Arches" concludes that rather than adapt to local tastes and preferences, “McDonalds’ foreign partners made major changes in marketing in order to sell the American system. Indeed, McDonalds is prepared to support such means as are necessary to sell the American system, the company supplies symbolic practical support and important ideological support to the military imperialism necessary for the onward march of mono-culture. For example, they provided food to US troops as a token of support for the genocide about to be perpetrated against the people of Iraq. (link)

McDonalds told Scottish sandwich bar owner, Mary Blair, that her shop in Fenny Stratford near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, can no longer go by the name McMunchies because McDonald's is the registered user of the 'Mc' prefix, it emerged yesterday. Mrs. Blair, a 36 year-old Scot, who does not sell burgers or chips, said she chose the name because she liked the word "munchies" and wanted to add a taste of Scotland. The sign bears a Scottish thistle and a St Andrew's flag. But in a statement to Mrs. Blair's solicitors, said if someone, "either deliberately or unintentionally," used their trademark, they were “in effect using something that does not belong to them." The company that has quietly set about taking over the world ensuring that there is not a high street which does not feature its red and white sign and its golden arches, also the property of McDonald's, now wants to take over Britain's heritage. Telling the Scots that they cannot use the prefix Mc is like someone registering the name Singh and then ban its use in India. Where do they think Mc originated, Illinois? McDonald's say that the "unauthorized" use of the 'Mc' prefix may confuse the public." (link)

McDonald's also affects culture in promoting their food as 'nutritious', but the reality is that it is junk food. It is high in fat, sugar and salt, and low in fiber and vitamins. A diet of this type is linked with a greater risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Their food also contains many chemical additives, some of which may cause ill health, and hyperactivity in children. Meat is also the cause of the majority of food poisoning incidents. In 1991 McDonald's were responsible for an outbreak of food poisoning in the UK, in which people suffered serious kidney failure. With modern intensive farming methods, other diseases, linked to chemical residues or unnatural practices have also become a danger to people too.

As a global power McDonalds has negatively affected the world’s people economically, politically, and culturally. Criticism of McDonald's has come from a huge number of people and organizations over a wide range of issues. In the mid-1980's, London Greenpeace drew together many of those strands of criticism and called for an annual World Day of Action against McDonald's. This takes place every year on 16th October, with pickets and demonstrations all over the world. McDonald's, who spend a fortune every year on advertising, are trying to silence worldwide criticism by threatening legal action against those who speak out. Many have been forced to back down because they lacked the money to fight a case. Protests against the $30 billion a year fast-food giant continue to grow. It's vital to stand up to intimidation and to defend free speech. (link) “Nobody in the United States is forced to buy fast food. The first step toward meaningful change is by far the easiest which is to stop buying it. They executives who run the fast food industry are not bad mean. They are business mean. They will sell free-range, organic, grass fed hamburgers is you demand it. They will sell whatever makes a profit” (Schlosser 269)



Schlosser, Eric. "Fast Food Nation",
Haroer Collins Publishers, 2002.


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