Summary: This is a clip from an episode of “I Love Lucy,” where Lucy and her friend Ethel are working in a candy factory and are tasked with wrapping bite-sized pieces of chocolate as they move along a conveyer belt. They begin fine, however, the belt speeds up and the candies start coming too quickly, leaving Lucy and Ethel desperate to keep up. Instructors can use this clip as a humorous way of beginning a discussion about Ritzer's turn of phrase, "the irrationality of rationality" (which is tied to Max Weber's notion of the "iron cage"). In his popular book, The McDonaldization of Society, Ritzer explains: "Most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them." In the clip, the worker's need for the conveyer belt to move at a "human" pace is subordinate to the demands of a rationalized production process, which seeks to employ the smallest number of workers possible to wrap a lot of chocolates. Students can be encouraged to consider other examples, such as the way rationalized food preparation practices have resulted in less nutritious food. This irrational outcome from a rationalized food preparation system is contributing to large scale health problems.
Submitted By: Elizabeth Majchrzak