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01/01/2012: "Book Review of Republic of Drivers"
I have just posted my review of Cotten Seiler's short but rich "cultural history of automobility in America," Republic of Drivers, over at our sister publication, The New Colonist.

Seiler's work examines how it was that the automobile became such a dominating factor in US life, and presents a thesis that the delusions of power and freedom associated with personal driving served to placate a workforce whose self-esteem was shattered by the transition from "proprietary capitalism"--small businesses and artisanal manufacturing--to "industrial capitalism," the aggregation of workers into large enterprises as cogs in someone else's machine.

The compensatory function of driving, with its promise of freedom of movement and mastery over time and space, was heavily promoted by corporate, government, and citizen groups even as the needs of the car imposed tighter and tighter restrictions on urban form, diminished choices in transportation, destroyed natural communities, and engendered a proliferation of authoritarian control mechanisms tied to driving.

Seiler's analysis helps explain why the car became a sort of sacrament in America, and why attempts to promote such an American value as freedom of choice in transport are met with such vicious opposition.

I hope my review, which you can read here, does this fine book justice--and spurs people to buy it.

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