Particularizing The Universal – McDonald’s Edition

Via Kerim Friedman, a list of items found on specific McDonald’s menus in different parts of the world. For instance:

Korokke Burger in Japan

McRice Burger in Malaysia

McPaneer Wrap in India

As Kerim notes, it is a good example of cultural globalization. Actually, as I wrote on my website, it is a good illustration of one aspect of what Roland Robertson called glocalization: particularization of the universal:

“Ironically, McDonald’s has extensively glocalized its product line as it established franchises worldwide, especially in cultures where eating beef, or meat generally, is not as routine as it is in the United States. For instance, in India, outlets offer mutton burgers whereas in France, some outlets offer burgers with foie gras (a French delicacy made of duck or goose liver). Similarly, McDonald’s offers vegetarian burgers on the West Coast, but not in the Midwest. The way individual outlets are run may be similar around the world (according to the principles of McDonaldization), but McDonald’s outlets have had to adapt themselves to local cultures.

This example illustrates one of the subprocesses of glocalization: particularization of the universal, that is, the local adaptation and translation of universal principles. There are ways to run a fast-food franchise that are universally applicable as general templates, but these templates get modified to reflect particular cultural traits (such as a prohibition on eating beef). Similarly, as part of ideoscapes, feminist movements have sprung all over the world, especially in areas where their emergence is made difficult by strong traditions – religious or others – that do not involve the equal treatment of women, such as the Muslim world or certain South East Asian nations. However, as women in these areas create such social movements, they do not necessarily adopt western feminist ideas and strategies piecemeal. The concept of feminism itself gets glocalized to fit the needs and opportunities for these women in their cultural context. For instance, when the religious fundamentalist Taliban ruled Afghanistan, all feminist groups had to go underground to organize girls’ schools, as girls were no longer allowed to receive an education, a concern of low priority in post-industrial countries.”

And similarly, the spread of McDonald’s model illustrates the opposite sub-process of glocalization: universalization of the particular:

“The other glocalization subprocess is the opposite dynamic: universalization of the particular – the global outreach of practices that are culturally specific or when social movements representing particular positions (such as religious fundamentalists) claim that their position reflects universal truths. As Lechner and Boli (2005) explain, religious fundamentalist movements are not opposed to globalization. Indeed, they make a global claim for their particular brand of religion as a globally legitimate alternative to Western values. Similarly, the rebels in the Chiapas were successful in positioning their particular struggle as universal: the rights of all indigenous people in the world.

These two dynamics of glocalization have been intensified in conjunction with global flows as mediascapes and technoscapes intersect with ideoscapes and ethnoscapes to make possible the constant back-and-forth dialogue between the local and the global. They also contribute to a major aspect of globalizing culture: its contentious and conflicted nature. These globalizing and localizating tendencies create tensions as different actors vie to shape the future of global society. Global culture is ridden with conflicts between universalists and particularists who each try to promote their vision (such as McWorld – the global consumption society – or Jihad – a world of particularisms, to paraphrase Benjamin Barber, 1995) on the global stage.”

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