The Establishment of a Car-Based Leisure Regime in Twentieth Century Europe: Appropriating the automobile for mass consumption in Denmark, Italy and the Soviet Union

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper uden forlag/tidsskriftForskning

Abstract

Comparative analysis of tourism and of its development in three different countries – Denmark, Italy and Soviet Union – has revealed the importance of the car as the keystone for changes in the habits of leisure time consumption all over in Europe.
Even considering the specific features (social, economic and political) of each country, and the different decades in which this phenomenon has occurred, “individual” travel and stay has become, in Twentieth Century, the characteristics of dominance over other forms of organized and “collective” tourism.

“Gentlemen, we do not make this tour to drive. We drive to make this tour”. In what Frederik Bagge, member of Danish Automobile Club board, said in 1907, there is already the spirit of the change: car was no more a simple means of transportation. Automobile was introduced and promoted in Denmark, through a consumption regime for leisure and recreation as a vehicle for promoting modern leisure life. Industry, consumers and their organisations played an important role in the construction of a cultural car-identity and in building a material reality that allegedly would benefit every citizen, from childhood to old age.

In Italy, increasing living standards, employment contracts that provided for periods of paid holidays and the coming on the market of small and cheap cars (and in the previous decade " scooters revolution", as well), allowed, in mid-Fifties, even to the workers and the clerks, since then nearly excluded from holidays pleasure, to have access to “mass vacation”, representing both a new means of consumption and a status symbol. Owning a car made people more independent (at least apparently…) to decide the destination of your leisure time, no longer being tied to institutions, associations or political parties, following only their personal wishes.
A better mobility created also a new situation about Italian tourism national demand, transforming – sometimes radically – the landscape and the Italian “hospitality industry”, in order to satisfy the needs of a “democratic” holiday.

The Soviet State-Party had carefully considered what was preferable between public and private consumption and – clearly – chosen the first solution. Nevertheless, Soviet Government encouraged car production and since 1970 started producing the Zhiguli, known as 2101. This car not only represented a more comfortable means of transportation, but also embodied – despite collective Soviet politics – a “private” dream: a private property good for private use. It allowed, for the very first time, mobility (even if relative…) and freedom of travelling. Owning a car permitted to organize the leisure independently from the prearranged forms of leisure set by the State-Party. It allowed to drive to holiday places, to a dacha or simply to make an excursion. Considering the nature of Soviet geography and its endless countryside, the car was also an alternative to public transportation, a basic necessity in many cases. Even if the USSR went through a real mass motorization, Zhiguli is, still today, the first and last car for the masses.
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Detaljer

Comparative analysis of tourism and of its development in three different countries – Denmark, Italy and Soviet Union – has revealed the importance of the car as the keystone for changes in the habits of leisure time consumption all over in Europe.
Even considering the specific features (social, economic and political) of each country, and the different decades in which this phenomenon has occurred, “individual” travel and stay has become, in Twentieth Century, the characteristics of dominance over other forms of organized and “collective” tourism.

“Gentlemen, we do not make this tour to drive. We drive to make this tour”. In what Frederik Bagge, member of Danish Automobile Club board, said in 1907, there is already the spirit of the change: car was no more a simple means of transportation. Automobile was introduced and promoted in Denmark, through a consumption regime for leisure and recreation as a vehicle for promoting modern leisure life. Industry, consumers and their organisations played an important role in the construction of a cultural car-identity and in building a material reality that allegedly would benefit every citizen, from childhood to old age.

In Italy, increasing living standards, employment contracts that provided for periods of paid holidays and the coming on the market of small and cheap cars (and in the previous decade " scooters revolution", as well), allowed, in mid-Fifties, even to the workers and the clerks, since then nearly excluded from holidays pleasure, to have access to “mass vacation”, representing both a new means of consumption and a status symbol. Owning a car made people more independent (at least apparently…) to decide the destination of your leisure time, no longer being tied to institutions, associations or political parties, following only their personal wishes.
A better mobility created also a new situation about Italian tourism national demand, transforming – sometimes radically – the landscape and the Italian “hospitality industry”, in order to satisfy the needs of a “democratic” holiday.

The Soviet State-Party had carefully considered what was preferable between public and private consumption and – clearly – chosen the first solution. Nevertheless, Soviet Government encouraged car production and since 1970 started producing the Zhiguli, known as 2101. This car not only represented a more comfortable means of transportation, but also embodied – despite collective Soviet politics – a “private” dream: a private property good for private use. It allowed, for the very first time, mobility (even if relative…) and freedom of travelling. Owning a car permitted to organize the leisure independently from the prearranged forms of leisure set by the State-Party. It allowed to drive to holiday places, to a dacha or simply to make an excursion. Considering the nature of Soviet geography and its endless countryside, the car was also an alternative to public transportation, a basic necessity in many cases. Even if the USSR went through a real mass motorization, Zhiguli is, still today, the first and last car for the masses.
Bidragets oversatte titelEtableringen af et automobilbaseret fritids regime i Europa i det 20. årh : Tilegnelsen af automobilet til masseforbrug i Danmark, Italien og Sovjetunionen
OriginalsprogEngelsk
Publikationsdatojun. 2010
Antal sider29
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2010
PublikationsartForskning
Peer reviewNej
BegivenhedFourth Tensions of Europe Plenary Conference: Technology & East-West relations: Transfers, parallel histories, and the European laboratory - Sofia, Bulgarien
Varighed: 17 maj 201020 maj 2010

Konference

KonferenceFourth Tensions of Europe Plenary Conference: Technology & East-West relations: Transfers, parallel histories, and the European laboratory
LandBulgarien
BySofia
Periode17/05/201020/05/2010

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