21st Century America

Globalization and McDonaldization is the defining economic and social trend of the last 20 years, and both show no sign of slowing down in the 80+ years left in this century. McDonaldization refers to not just trends in the fast-food industry, but a larger change in the way businesses and other large organizations are structured. Businesses and organizations are designed to maximize profits and minimize costs. What this means for the end product when we’re talking about consumer goods is that products are in general going to get worse and worse, and although this creates a market for higher end niche products made with high quality, but these products are probably going to either go in one of two directions: They will be standardized and McDonaldized, which means their cost and quality will go down, or they’ll become a high end quality product which most people can’t afford. All of this talk of a cultural and economic shift towards mass produced products means three things: Climate Change will get worse, profits will rise (for the 1%), and the economic prosperity and quality of life for the average person will go down.

What does this have to do with America? Well, believe it or not, the world looks to the US for guidance and input, and this country really is a ‘world leader’. It probably has to do with the success that America had with the restructuring of the global economy after WW1 and WW2 (the United States was in a unique position to become the global superpower after the end of the second world war). But a lot’s changed since the 1950’s. What was once called ‘the developing world’ is now in many instances at a higher and higher standard of living, which is a good thing for those people, and hopefully some spread of democratization will follow this increase in the standard of living, but corporate profits are on the rise, and that rise in profits doesn’t correlate to an increase in people’s income. The world has always had these problems, but it’s simply the development in technology and advance of the postmodern condition; we’re a plurality of people who exist on a wide spectrum, but if we don’t have some unity over the common cause of making our lives and world better then the next hundred years might make the last 10 years look like a day at the beach.

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