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

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  2. Chris Ivory
  3. Dr Audley Genus
Author(s)Ivory C, Genus A
Publication type Article
JournalBusiness History
ISSN (print)0007-6791
ISSN (electronic)1743-7938
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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.
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