ABSTRACT

The idea for this chapter originally came from a Radio 4 programme broadcast in 1989, The McDonald’s Generation, from the series, After Dread and Anger, written and presented by the black journalist Ferdinand Dennis. The programme made a personal impact for a number of reasons. In one sense it surprised me. I had expected Ferdinand Dennis to attack working conditions and low rates of pay for black workers, but instead the progamme heralded McDonald’s as a beacon for future minority employment opportunities. Part of its success, in this respect, was attributed to the absence of well-developed equal opportunity programmes. McDonald’s, it was claimed, had no need to take steps to eliminate discrimination and promote black employment, since unlike other UK firms, it was ‘unfettered by British traditions and prejudices’. Since racial discrimination only interfered with the rational operation of market forces (for instance it inhibited recruitment on the basis of aptitude for the job) then leaving markets to themselves offered the best prospects, or so it was argued, for eliminating discrimination. My specific interest in McDonald’s thus arose out of this programme and particularly its suggestion that this global fast food chain had the answers to problems incapable of being solved by legislation and political means.