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Times Higher Education
"Seiler brilliantly illuminates the phenomenon of 'automobility' as key to US society and culture from 1895 to 1961. . . . This is a landmark book."
Rising gas prices, sprawl and congestion, global warming, even obesity—driving is a factor in many of the most contentious issues of our time. So how did we get here? How did automobile use become so vital to the identity of Americans? Republic of Drivers looks back at the period between 1895 and 1961—from the founding of the first automobile factory in America to the creation of the Interstate Highway System—to find out how driving evolved into a crucial symbol of freedom and agency.
Cotten Seiler combs through a vast number of historical, social scientific, philosophical, and literary sources to illustrate the importance of driving to modern American conceptions of the self and the social and political order. He finds that as the figure of the driver blurred into the figure of the citizen, automobility became a powerful resource for women, African Americans, and others seeking entry into the public sphere. And yet, he argues, the individualistic but anonymous act of driving has also monopolized our thinking about freedom and democracy, discouraging the crafting of a more sustainable way of life. As our fantasies of the open road turn into fears of a looming energy crisis, Seiler shows us just how we ended up a republic of drivers—and where we might be headed.
— Julia Keller
— Andrew O'Hagan
— Margaret Walsh
— William Wagner
“This is history of the best sort. Republic of Drivers is brilliant, nuanced, and astonishing—the cross-disciplinary scope of this book is close to incredible. Despite the extraordinary reach of his research and thinking, Seiler wears his learning lightly and is sure to reach a wide audience.”
"Written with grace and authority and finely wrought insight."
"Seiler’s argument is strong and elegant because it raises a point of wonder: how did a people, so rash and so blunt in many ways, manage to live out their desires in broad daylight to the extent that they did and still do?"
"Meldahl's study offers readers a unique opportunity to engage with the past through a western landscape that, on some places, remains much as it was in the gold-crazed years of the nineteenth century."
Introduction: Automobility and American Subjectivity
Chapter 1: Individualism, Taylorization, and the Crisis of Republican Selfhood
Chapter 2: Workmen’s Compensation, Women’s Emancipation: The Promise of Automobility, 1895–1929
Chapter 3: Crafting Autonomous Subjects: Automobility and the Cold War
Chapter 4: “So That We as a Race Might Have Something Authentic to Travel By”: African American Automobility and Midcentury Liberalism
Chapter 5: “How Can the Driver Be Remodeled?”: Automobility and the Liberal Subject
Conclusion: Automobility’s Futures
List of Abbreviations
Posted June 21, 2012