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The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class Paperback – 19 Mar 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (19 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520218922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520218925
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 685,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"More than a perceptive, entertaining discussion of tourists and tourism ["The Tourist] is also a skillful blend of structuralist thought. . . . Both MacCannell's literary style and theoretical sophistication are genuine contributions to sociological scholarship."--Susanne Wedow, "Contemporary Sociology

About the Author

Dean MacCannell is Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Empty Meeting Grounds (1992) and The Time of the Sign (1982).

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AT the beginning of the industrial age, Karl Marx, basing his ideas on those of Hegel, wrote a theory accurate enough for several revolutionary governments to use as a guide for building new societies. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Goddard on 4 July 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had this down as between a three and a four star book. I opted for the latter on the basis of the balanced and thoughtful conclusions that MacCannell comes to (even though I don't necessarily agree with them).

It's good in parts but it doesn't do what it says on the tin. Indeed, Thorstein Veblen is the least quoted and used theorist in the entire book. Instead we get far more Marx, semiotics and various other theoretical approaches. Therein lies the most unsatisfactory aspect of the book. This is that it reads as if it is a written-up PhD thesis, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that suggests: heavy on the theory in places in order to show that he knows it, solid empirical studies (if a bit disparate) to demonstrate extensive fieldwork and a poor relationship between the two. In short, it's a bit uneven in tone and uncertain in direction.

That said, it is a substantial analysis of an important subject and everyone should be able to profit from it. The jargon can be excessive but then that's what sociologists do. Plough through it and there are still plenty of nuggets of entertainment, insight and knowledge. I liked MacCannell's ending. He's concerned to give a balanced view of tourism and offers a thoughtful summation of his views. This isn't some stereotypical elitist attack on the phenomenon. Indeed, he takes such simplistic critics to task. Overall, I'm glad I read it and would be happy to recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Standard work for students in tourism. It is a source for further theory building. Although it is clear;y dated, its strengths is that it is still applicable some 40 years late
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
"Travellers seek authentic Hungarian peasant's dinner" 12 Feb. 2002
By Bob Newman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
All around the world, especially in those domains inhabited by readers of Lonely Planet publications, a fine (or sometimes not so fine) distinction is drawn between "tourists" and "travellers". Almost always, "tourists" are "them", while "travellers" are "us". Tourists are somebody you can look down on, from the height of your greater awareness, cultural sensitivity, or superior poverty. In the old days, the term "pilgrim" described not only people who went to places like Mecca, Jerusalem or Rome, but also those on the "road of life". It seems to me that all travellers are tourists and vice-versa. Anthropologists too are just tourists with a more professional attitude, intent on telling others what they have found in their in-depth investigations and placing it in an academic framework. If you want to get to the bottom of this whole topic---with all the various ramifications---then you must read MacCannell's book, an essay in the (OK, somewhat arcane) field of the Anthropology of Tourism. It is not a bedtime reading book, but will stimulate plenty of thought.
The author takes the tourist as a model of modern man. He engages in a very effective piece of structural analysis; more effective in my opinion than any ever created by the Old Master, Claude Levi-Strauss. A reader of THE TOURIST will come away having understood everything, not totally baffled by mountains of jargon. The pre-modern world has not disappeared, it has been turned into zillions of tourist attractions. We, the seekers, pilgrims, or, if you like, the tourists, try to get close to the roots of our civilization, to our own origins, by visiting and looking at packaged versions of the past. Where pre-modern societies still exist to some extent, for example, among the hill tribes of Thailand, tourists make great efforts to visit them and, significantly, try their utmost to ensure that their visits are not "packaged" but "real". The tourist wants to penetrate and share the lives of "others", others who are so distinct from ourselves. Tourist satisfaction may be directly correlated to how "authentic" the experience seems to the visitors. That's why having the authentic Hungarian peasant's dinner is important. Unfortunately, you can't really share that dinner if you are travelling with forty other pilgrims in search of authenticity on a large bus. But advertising, as always, can work wonders! Fake authenticity has become the norm.
MacCannell discusses such serious topics as "commodity and symbol", "cultural productions and work groups" and how these relate to work. In subsequent chapters, entitled "Sightseeing and Social Structure", "The Paris Case: Origins of Alienated Leisure", "Staged Authenticity", "A Semiotic of Attraction", "The Ethnomethodology of Sightseers", and "Structure, Genuine and Spurious", the author covers a wide variety of fascinating subjects in a brilliant book which will definitely succeed in making you view tourism in a different way forever afterwards. The pages are crammed with insights, analysis, good examples and interesting observations. This book is the classic work of the Anthropology of Tourism. If you are starting out in the field or are just interested in thinking about tourism in modern life, this is your book. If you are a tourist along the byways of Amazon.com, you might consider making a stop here. You will not find less than an authentic gem.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
One of the more accessible books on the topic 25 Jun. 2003
By Elizabeth R - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What I liked about MacCannell's book was how easy it was to read- now, granted, I was forced to plow through this in a week, so I didn't get to savor it- but I really felt like I understood far more than I usually do- like the book had enough of substance to say that it wasn't necessary to obscure the ideas with jargon.
It seemed like in many ways this was a rebuttal to Daniel Boorstin's "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America" , which presents a fairly elitist distinction between traveller and tourist. MacCannell expressely mentions Boorstin's ideas and decries them as being counterproductive- that we'd all like to elevate ourselves above the majority, but are mostly deceiving ourselves that this distinction is true.
Also, some very interesting stuff in here about how a sight is established- how it is marked- the interplay of markers and signs. His work on Staged Authenticity is also quite compelling- the idea of Front, Back, and Reality- spaces where everyone can go, restricted spaces that are still modified knowing outsiders will pass through, and spaces that are authentic.
His examples involving Paris are especially interesting. I'd recommend checking out this AND the Boorstin.
8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Unqual chapters... 3 Jun. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Tourism is an interesting topic for a structural analysis and this is the goal of MacCannell's analysis, citing Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes right from the beginning. The introduction of the book fascinated me and kept my going. There the author illustrates a variety of interesting thoughts in relation to Marx, sometimes Walter Benjamin and Levi-Strauss. But in comparison with several of the chapters to come (not all), the philosophical level does not always keep up. Some of them content themselves to describe what the reader already knows - with little philosophical output. An example: the third chapter of the book is about tourism in Paris at the time of 1900. A very good topic. But the author limits himself with the interpretation of a Baedeker's Travel Guide, not looking or mentioning other sources in THE city of tourism as Paris was at that time. A combination with literature for example of the same time - where tourists play an important part - would have been much more lucrative. The same with chapter 5, though chapter 6 about a "Semiotics of Tourism" gets back to the level of the introduction. Well... Theses are the reasons for three stars.
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