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COP3 - Secondary Research - The Sign of the Burger

The Sign of the Burger: McDonald's and the Culture of Power (Book)

"I didn't want to remain a hick from the mountains... In my cultural naivete I saw McDonald's as a place somehow where modern culture capital could be dispensed. Keeping these memories in mind as years later I monitored scores of conversations about the Golden Arches in the late 1990's, it became apparent that McDonald's is still considered a marker of a modern identity."

So begins a complicated journey into the power of one of the most recognizable signs of American capitalism: The Golden Arches. The Sign of the Burger examines how McDonald's captures our imagination: as a shorthand for explaining the power of American culture; as a symbol of the strength of consumerism; as a bellwether for the condition of labor in a globalized economy; and often, for better or worse, a powerful educational tool that often defines the nature of culture for hundreds of millions the world over.

While many books have offered simple complaints of the power of McDonald's, Joe Kincheloe explores the real ways McDonald's affects us. We see him as a young boy in Appalachia, watching the Golden Arches going up as the -- hopeful -- arrival of the modern into his rural world. And we travel with him around the world to see how this approach of the modern affects other people, either through excitement or through attempts at resisting McDonald's power, often in unfortunate ways. Through it all, Kincheloe makes clear, with lucidity and depth, the fact that McDonald's growth will in many ways determine both the nature of accepting and protesting its ever-expanding presence in our global world.


Page 7 

"if this world s to have any extended future, Mcdonald's needs to be cut out. .When you eat a hamburger, you're also eating a section of the South American Rainforest and the air it purified. McDonald's is currently in a cozy situation as it seems our country is being run by a plutocrat, but hopefully we will see the problems McDonald's is creating even without the government shadowing our view before we have to start worrying about the world running out of oxygen. (Interview, September 20, 2001),"

"Readers can sense in these episodes that powerful concepts and symbols are circulating around the Golden Arches - concepts and symbols that none of us (myself included) sensed in our first contacts with the corporation."

Page 8

"Such ubiquity and conflicting perceptions make McDonald's a symbol for an age. The power of McDonalds to elicit dreams and fantasies from people around the world illustrates its compelling impact on the collective physhe. Numerous children I interviews talked about wishing for an infinite supply of McDonald's hamburgers. Some wished they could someday own a McDonalds restaurant; many others wanted to raise hamburger trees on a fantasy farm they would someday run. 

Page 9 

"Thus Mcdonalds has captured the publics imagination, playing many roles in the contemporary society : all-American success story, creator of Happy Meal fandom, symbol of western economic development, concrete representation of Modernity, corporate bully, postmodern sign value, object of disdain, patron or cultural dislocator of McWorkers. 

"Vandana Shiva (1997) contends that McDonald's power has much in common with pre-perestroika Soviet Union. The biggest difference, she argues, involves the ways the world has reacted to the two power weilders. Whereas the whole world was outraged by the concentrated , centralised control of the communist regime, most people are untroubled by the authoritarianism of transnational corporations that have no accountability to anyone."

BRILLIANT COMPARISON of MCDONALDS to SOVIET UNION. Backs my case up with someone else opinion. 

Page 10

"Indeed Mcdonald's the power weilder stands ready to do battle with anyone who messes with its power, with the positive valences of its sign value. The company understands the hegemonic worth of it's signifiers as mechanisms of social regulation. George Ritzer see's Mcdonald's production process as an old-fashioned, modernist form of rationalisation__an accurate understanding, for the most part---but the company's relationship to sign values is a good example of how the hegemonic process works in a postmodern context. Thus, the discourse about Mcdonald's generated by Ritzer and his supporter and critics, as well as this book (I hope), has an importatnt realtionaship to some of key debates in the early twenty-first century."

HEGEMONY (hegemonic): The processes by which dominant culture maintains its dominant position: for example, the use of institutions to formalize power; the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and, therefore, not attached to any one individual); the inculcation of the populace in the ideals of the hegomonic group through education, advertising, publication, etc.; the mobilization of a police force as well as military personnel to subdue opposition.

"In this context we ca see that McDonald's represents a new kind of business power---not a manufacturer or some other traditional form of industry, but an entertainment-based, fun-producing firm that extends to every last corner of the globe. Along with Coke and Disney, McDonald's produces power via pleasure."

Page 17

" winning the consent of individuals to dominant forces of power. McDonald's wins this consent by attatching its signifiers to prevailing belief structures such as family values, patriotism, and nostalgia for a culturally homogeneous small-town America."

Good Quote on how Mcdonalds play on family values, patriotism and nostaliga to sell. 

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