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Symbolic consumption, signification and the ‘lock out’ of electric cars 1885-1914

Lookup NU author(s): Chris Ivory, Dr Audley Genus


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The paper analyses the sources of meanings attached to consumption of the early automobile to inform analysis of the lock out of electric automobiles in the UK, mindful of related developments in France, and the USA. Data is gathered from archive sources, and include social and technical histories and popular newspapers and magazines from the period investigated (1885-1914). The paper asserts that the association of the early car with specific and particular cultural meanings, as defined by class and gender, led to it becoming an untenable choice for early consumers contributing to the ‘lock out’ of the electric car before it had a chance to establish itself as a viable socio-technical system. The conclusion highlights the limitations of an analytical focus privileging technical accounts of lock out and points up the contribution to understanding to be gained by drawing on the concepts of symbolic consumption and signification.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ivory C, Genus A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Business History

Year: 2010

Volume: 52

Issue: 7

Pages: 1107-1122

Print publication date: 01/01/2010

ISSN (print): 0007-6791

ISSN (electronic): 1743-7938

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2010.523463


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