Fast Food, Fast Track: Immigrants, Big Business, and the American Dream

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Westview Press, Sep 9, 2009 - Social Science - 240 pages
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Hailing from China, the Caribbean, Latin America, and India, a colorful sea of faces has taken its place behind one of the most ubiquitous American business institutions ? the fast-food counter. They have become a vital link between the growing service sector in our citiesOCO ethnic enclaves and the multi-billion dollar global fast-food industry. For four years, sociologist Jennifer Parker Talwar went behind the counter herself and listened to immigrant fast-food workers in New York CityOCOs ethnic communities. They talked about balancing their low-paying jobs and monotonous daily reality with keeping the faith that these very jobs could be the first step on the path to the American Dream. In this original and compelling work of ethnography, Talwar shows that contrary to those arguing that the fast-food industry only represents an increasing homogenization of the American workforce, fast-food chains in immigrant communities "must" and "do" adapt to their surroundings."

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Fast food, fast track: immigrants, big business, and the American dream

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With the publication in 1993 of sociologist George Ritzer's The McDonaldization of Society, the word "McDonaldization" became part of our vocabulary, usually used to describe prolific spread and ... Read full review


the Importance of Culture
Ethnic Conflicts
a More Multicultural Society
The Respondents

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Page 98 - In a society of employees, dominated by the marketing mentality, it is inevitable that a personality market should arise. For in the great shift from manual skills to the art of 'handling,' selling, and servicing people, personal or even intimate traits of the employee are drawn into the sphere of exchange and become of commercial relevance, become commodities in the labor market.
Page 209 - Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.; 1959). 2 Ibid., pp. 239-40. 3 See Robert F. Bales: "The Equilibrium Problem in Small Groups," in Talcott Parsons, Robert F.
Page 72 - I got up and went out, feeling as though my back were broken and my skull filled with hot cinders. I did not think that I could possibly do a day's work. And yet, after only an hour in the basement, I found that I was perfectly well. It seemed that in the...
Page 202 - Bureau of the Census. 1990 Census of Population — Social and Economic Characteristics (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1993), p.
Page 72 - ... felt in need of a holiday. It was Saturday night, so the people in our bistro were busy getting drunk, and with a free day ahead of me I was ready to join them. We all went to bed, drunk, at two in the morning, meaning to sleep till noon. At half-past five I was suddenly awakened. A night-watchman, 5 sent from the hotel, was standing at my bedside. He stripped the clothes back and shook me roughly. "Get up!" he said. "Tu f'es bien saoule la gueule, eh? Well, never mind that, the hotel's a man...
Page 139 - ... Typically, they are hard, dirty, uninteresting, and underpaid. The rest of society (whatever its ideal values regarding the dignity of labor) holds the job of the dishwasher or janitor or unskilled laborer in low esteem if not outright contempt. So does the streetcorner man. He cannot do otherwise. He cannot draw from a job those social values which other people do not put into it.
Page 99 - In many strata of white-collar employment, such traits as courtesy, helpfulness, and kindness, once intimate, are now part of the impersonal means of livelihood.
Page 206 - Robin Leidner, Fast Food, Fast Talk: Service Work and the Routinization of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). 35. On the commerce of urban strip clubs, see Elizabeth Bernstein, "The Meaning of the Purchase: Desire, Demand and the Commerce of Sex," Ethnography 2 (2001): 389-420.
Page 198 - Ivan Light, Ethnic Enterprise in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), pp.
Page 99 - When white-collar people get jobs, they sell not only their time and energy but their personalities as well. They sell by the week or month their smiles and their kindly gestures, and they must practice the prompt repression of resentment and aggression. For these intimate traits are of commercial relevance and required for the more efficient and profitable distribution of goods and services.

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About the author (2009)

Talwar is an assistant professor of sociology at Penn State.

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