McDonald’s latest move sums up its wretched cultural imperialism

Fast food restaurant McDonald’s has long come under attack from anti-globalization campaigners for its homogenizing effect on global food systems, cityscapes, and local cultures. The marketing of its unhealthy and potentially addictive foods – especially to children – has also been criticized by public health advocates at a global level. Its negative impact on diet and health has created a lifestyle disease.

The company’s destructive and homogenizing characteristics have been well documented. McDonald’s has had a profound impact on businesses. Multinational companies like McDonald’s deploy similar technologies and production methods worldwide to achieve more uniform operating methods and outputs, leading to the loss of local business values and initiatives. Workers and trade unionists have testified in hearings of human rights against McDonald’s over low pay and poor working conditions for its operations in developing countries like Brazil. Instead of driving a global race to the bottom by exploiting them for lower labor costs, McDonald’s can use its power and influence to help improve the lives of workers around the world.

In addition, its marketing techniques are increasingly viewed as overly manipulative and in part destroying local cultures. On 6 June, McDonald’s in the U.S. unveiled its new ‘International Currency Exchange’. Customers will be able to use foreign currency to purchase four new items on its so-called ‘Worldwide Favourites’ menu at participating U.S. McDonald’s stores. This new menu includes the Dutch delicacy ‘Stroopwaffel McFlurry’ and a Spanish dish named the ‘Grand Extreme Bacon Burger’.

Fast food is not just culturally, environmentally, and nutritionally destructive, it is also a symbol and tangible manifestation of U.S. imperial power. It represents the conquering of the world by the U.S. ‘values’ of so-called “free” markets, corporatization, and cultural imperialism.

Questions:

(a) There are many aspects of globalization that need to be dealt with. Discuss the THREE aspects of globalization that need to be dealt resulted from the fast-food business developments. Illustrate each aspect with an example from the above case. (12 marks)

(b) Discuss the other FIVE issues that need to be addressed when dealing with cultural globalization. Provide one example for each issue from the above case. (10 marks)

(c) Suggest TWO ways for multinational companies such as McDonald’s and governments to deal with the issue of “racing to the bottom”. (6 marks)

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