America’s Automobile: Affection or Obsession, Myth or Reality?


Mythology plays an important part of the role of the American automobile, less so in terms of its primary function that is transportation, more so in terms of an ancillary purpose: its metaphorical significance to both owner or operator and the onlooking public. Across much of the 20th century and continuing now into the third decade of the 21st century, the American automobile has undergone many design changes that have buttressed its metaphorical significance: become streamlined, gained then lost then partially regained size together with a colorful exterior, and in the 21st century become focused on an array of interior gadgets, some cast into hibernation because of an electronic chip scarcity resulting from trade wars and the Covid-19 pandemic. Many Americans seem to have almost become besotted by automobiles, including their own and those driven by others, because in some respects the American automobile has come to define its driver. Automobiles in the United States that are visually appealing symbolize affluence, material success, preoccupation with speed, including the rapid pace of social change, as well as, at least arguably, a lesser regard for protecting the environment. On balance, in the mindset of many Americans, the automobile is larger than life, “a mode of signification, a form” in contrast to a mere machine. Change in automotive design has been heralded as the talisman of a new generation of drivers. However, what is cause and what is effect? American automobiles conflate myth and reality; that which is together with that which might be sometime temporal frustrations with the American Dream.


automobile; wartime Nazi collaboration; muscle cars; American Dream; mechanical Manifest Destiny; mobility

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Published : 2021-12-19

JonesD. (2021). America’s Automobile: Affection or Obsession, Myth or Reality?. Review of International American Studies, 14(2), 25-55.

David Arthur Jones
University of Warsaw American Studies Center  Poland

DAVID A. JONES is University of Warsaw Professor dr hab. (Political Science) of International Relations and International Management. He has been at its Institute of The Americas and Europe, American Studies Center, since 2005, Faculty of Management since 2012, and Institute of International Relations from 2006 to 2016. He is a senior graduate faculty at Norwich University, the Military Academy of the State of Vermont, where he teaches Intercultural Management in the International System and has taught its capstone graduate course, Global Corporate Diplomacy, receiving its Distinguished Faculty Award in 2018. Professor Jones received the University of Warsaw Rector’s Award in 2017 for his book, Four Eagles and a Dragon: Successes and Failures of Quixotic Encirclement Strategies in Foreign Policy, An Analysis (Bloomsbury). From 2000-05 he was faculty advisor to the Oxford Banking Forum at Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (FRSM) and Royal Statistical Society (FRSS), and holder of patents including a U.S.P.T.O. utility patent, several design patents registered in the United States, Canada, European Community, and Republic of China (Taiwan).

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