Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

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Psychology Press, 1994 - Social Science - 264 pages
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The automobile continues to be the privileged product of the culture of mass consumption, yet there has been little scholarly attention to what concerns consumers most - the appearance of cars. Auto Opium is the first comprehensive history of the profession and aesthetics of American automobile design. The author reveals how the appearance of vehicles became an integral part of the system of mass production and mass consumption forged in the struggles of American society. The book traces the development of automobile design, from the first utilitarian cars around the turn of the century to the most modern of symbol-laden cultural icons. The author shows that the aesthetic qualities of vehicles were shaped by the social conflicts generated by the process of mass production. These conflicts became channeled into the realm of mass consumption, where working Americans demanded beautiful, stylish, and constantly improving cars to compensate them for the deprivations of mass production. Creating a unique blend of business, social, and cultural history, Auto Opium connects the social struggles of America to the organizational struggles of designers and the marketplace struggles of firms.
 

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Contents

The aesthetics of Fordism I
1
Early development of the automotive form
15
mass and class production
39
The 1920s and the birth
68
Harley Earl and the rise
81
The slow diffusion of style
92
The Depression and the decade
100
The battle for the ideology of streamlining
115
The aesthetics of the postwar dream machines
151
the incipient revolt against Detroit dream
168
the revolt unleashed
174
Harbinger of automotive individuality
180
The explosion of automotive diversity
190
aesthetic trends in the 1960s
199
Epilogue Design in the wake of Fordism
212
Notes
226

the disastrous defeat of functional streamlining
121
Streamlining for war
133
styling oligopoly bean
141

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