Car Wars: How the Car Won Our Hearts and Conquered Our Cities

Car Wars: How the Car Won Our Hearts and Conquered Our Cities

Car Wars: How the Car Won Our Hearts and Conquered Our Cities

Car Wars: How the Car Won Our Hearts and Conquered Our Cities

Excerpt

The history of our times is written not only in words, but in things. We live in a materialistic age, and much of our lives is occupied with the pursuit of material things. Yet every age takes pride in the things it makes, and invests them with more than material significance. Medieval society built cathedrals, the rise of the modern state was made concrete in palaces and parliaments, the industrial age was inseparable from canals, railways and satanic mills. If an earthquake or atomic holocaust should suddenly destroy our own civilisation, future archaeologists will surely find no more significant ruins than the highway flyovers and clover leafs, parking stations and drive-in shopping malls of a society whose most valued tool, and most powerful status symbol, is the automobile.

Cars are everywhere. They take us to work, shop and play. They monopolise our streets and roadways and mould the landscape to their insistent demands. They are homes away from home, little oases of privacy, where drivers sit alone with their thoughts amidst the hum of traffic or couples cling together in dark side streets. In the battle of the sexes, cars are also powerful weapons. They are love objects and status symbols; also symbols of danger and sudden death.

From their first appearance during the Edwardian era, cars won attention for how they looked as much as what they did. By the 1960s, car owners as well as manufacturers and car salesmen recognised that the automobile was a ‘status symbol’, an essential prop in the search for social recognition that American sociologists saw as the ruling principle . . .

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