Explorations in the Sociology of Consumption: Fast Food, Credit Cards and Casinos


George Ritzer

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    To Casey Maxwell Ritzer: Love Yet Again


    This constitutes a preface to both Explorations in Social Theory: From Metatheorizing to Rationalization and Explorations in the Sociology of Consumption: Fast Food, Credit Cards and Casinos. While each of these books can be read independently of the other, the two volumes taken together offer an overview of my contributions to these two fields. Included are journal articles and excerpts from some well-known books as well as some essays that I hope will get wider visibility as a result of their inclusion in these volumes. Some chapters are taken from material published some time ago, others are derived from more recent publications, and there are several that are being published in these volumes for the first time. Some of the material is derived from books that have been out-of-print for a decade or two. Thus, inclusion of excerpts from these books will bring these works to the attention of a generation or two of sociologists and other social scientists who might otherwise not have access to them.

    Virtually all of the material in these two volumes was written with a professional audience in mind. However, as I make clear in Chapter 1 (‘Writing to be Read’) of Explorations in the Sociology of Consumption, I give great importance to writing in such a way that even the most abstract ideas in both social theory and the sociology of consumption are accessible to a wide range of readers. Thus, it is my hope that these volumes will not only be of interest to scholars, but also to many other readers, including both graduate students and undergraduates.

    Not only are these two books designed so that they can be read independently of one another, but it is also the case that each of the individual chapters can be read on its own. While I would clearly like readers to proceed from cover to cover, there are many who, given their particular interests, might want to read only a chapter or two from each volume. The desire to have each chapter stand on its own has one drawback for the two volumes. That is, there is a bit more repetition in these books than one might like. Thus, for example, the reader will run into several versions of the basic types of metatheorizing and of the basic dimensions of McDonaldization. I trust that those of you who read the books in their entirety and are irritated by the occasional repetition will bear in mind that such repetition helps make each chapter more meaningful to those who are only reading a selected chapter or two.

    The idea for these two volumes came from my dear friend and colleague – Chris Rojek – who also happens to be the sociology editor at Sage Publications in London. I owe him an immense debt for not only coming up with the idea, but allowing me to put together two volumes that I hope will give the reader a good feel for my work in both theory and the sociology of consumption. Other people at Sage have also been of great help including Jackie Griffin and Ian Antcliff.

    I also need to thank a number of past and present graduate students at the University of Maryland who co-authored all or part of a number of the essays in these two volumes – Richard Bell, Pamela Gindoff, Doug Goodman, Terri LeMoyne, Elizabeth Malone, James Murphy, Seth Ovadia, Todd Stillman, David Walczak and Wendy Weidenhoft. Also to be thanked are undergraduate research assistants Jan Geesin and Zinnia Cho.


    1–This chapter first appeared in Contemporary Sociology, 5, September, 1998: 446–53.

    2–This chapter is derived from Chapter 7 of The McDonaldization of Society, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1996: 121–42.

    3–This chapter is derived from Chapter 13 of The McDonaldization Thesis. London: Sage, 1998: 174–91.

    4–This chapter was co–authored by Seth Ovadia and is to be published in Mark Gottdiener, ed. New Forms of Consumption. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

    5–This chapter is derived from various places in Expressing America: A Critique of the Global Credit Card Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1995.

    6–This chapter is derived from various places in Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1999; the discussion of the relevance of Walter Benjamin's work to the cathedrals of consumption is published here for the first time.

    7–This chapter appears in print for the first time in this volume. It is based on a paper presented at the conference: ‘Sociality/Materiality: The Status of the Object in Social Science’, Brunel University, Uxbridge, England, September 9–11, 1999.

    8–This chapter was published previously in American Studies, 41: 2 (Summer), 2000 and was co-authored by Liz Malone

    9–This chapter appears in print here for the first time and was co-authored by Todd Stillman

    10–This chapter appears here for the first time and was co-authored by James Murphy and Wendy Weidenhoft. It was presented at meetings of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, 1999.

    11–This chapter is based on a paper presented at the conference on ‘Obscene Powers: Corruption, Coercion and Violence’ John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, Southampton, England, December 11–12, 1999. It is published here for the first time.

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