Fast Food Nation | Study Guide

Eric Schlosser

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Fast Food Nation | Part 2, Chapter 10 : Meat and Potatoes (Global Realization) | Summary


Key Takeaways

  • This chapter reveals the enduring impact of McDonald's on the rest of the world through the example of Plauen, Germany, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Plauen, a small German city, has been "punished, rewarded, devastated, and transformed" by 20th-century political and social movements. It has been affected by "industrialism, fascism, communism, [and] consumerism." As an indicator of social trends, Plauen is similar to Colorado Springs in America.
  • Plauen was in the German Democratic Republic (or East Germany) after World War II. When the Berlin Wall fell, the first new building in Plauen was a McDonald's.
  • McDonald's has expanded to over 120 countries and is often the first foreign franchisor to arrive when a country opens its markets.
  • McDonald's represents "Americana" and "modernization" to many nations, according to anthropologist Yunxiang Yan.
  • Fast food suppliers follow McDonald's around the world, purchasing food local to the country but bringing with them the American agricultural system and imposing it on local farmers.
  • Germany, the "most Americanized" country in Europe, is McDonald's most profitable market outside of the United States. Traditional German restaurants are disappearing.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), spoke at a fast food convention in Las Vegas, revealing "the strange power of fast food in the new world order." Gorbachev had previously praised McDonald's restaurant's food and atmosphere.
  • Gorbachev's speech, according to Eric Schlosser, represents American capitalism's triumph over Soviet communism, providing "an opportunity for the victors to gloat."
  • In large part because of fast food consumption, the obesity rate is rising in the United States and in countries such as China and Japan, where fast food is replacing traditional diets.
  • International fast food restaurants, especially McDonald's, are frequent targets for protests against American imperialism and critics of "Americanization."
  • When London Greenpeace activists passed out anti-McDonald's pamphlets in 1986, McDonald's sued five members of the group in what became known as the "McLibel" trial.
  • Greenpeace members Helen Steel and Dave Morris fought the lawsuit for years. Morris says McDonald's is one of many damaging multinational corporations "that feel no allegiance to any nation."
  • As Plauen, Germany, struggles to adapt to life after communism and becomes increasingly Americanized, McDonald's is a common gathering spot for families. Plauen residents are also fascinated with the culture of the American West, holding dance nights where they dress as cowboys.
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