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. David Gartman 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. Combining a unique blend of business, social, and cultural history, "Auto-Opium" connects the social struggles of designers within firms and the marketplace struggles between auto firms.
." . . an important addition to automotive history."
"Those interested in the history of automobile designers and their designs will find Gartman's account to be well-researched, informative and enjoyable."
-"American Journal of Sociology