The Tourist Gaze Review
It should be interesting to anyone with a scholarly involvement in tourism and is likely to become a standard educational reference, because Urry has achieved a useful blend. In addition to some social theory, his book offers perspectives on tourism drawing on a range of social science disciplines, many examples, and brief bits of statistical data (and, a welcome feature in a book on postmodernism, the English is readable). Urry remarks that to be a tourist is one of the characteristics of the “modern” experience, an idea discussed in more detail by MacCannell(l976).
Modernism and postmodernism, by definition, imply rapidly perishable perspectives. Therefore, with 15 years elapsed since the appearance of MacCannell’s now classic study, Urry’s book offers a fresh discussion on the ever-evolving links between tourism and modernism/postmodernism. Urry has identified several aspects of culture and society and has cleverly shown how they are linked with trends in tourism. The topics are quite diverse, including holiday camps, heritage, packaged tour design, sex tourism, and festivals, each accompanied by statistical snippets.
Most of the focus is tourism in England. The book is “about how, in different societies and especially within different social groups in diverse historical periods, the tourist gaze has changed and developed” (p. 1). A brief overview is presented on theoretical approaches to the study of tourism. This is restricted to approaches for studying social and cultural phenomena associated with tourism: Nothing of the whole tourism system approach (Getz 1986) is included. The book’s title, noted earlier, implies an analogy between the gaze of tourists and Foucault’s (1975) clinical gaze.
Foucault’s innovative thinking on a range of topics has led to his ideas and methods being applied to many topics in the social sciences. Urry claims the tourist gaze is socially organized and systematized. He remarks there “is It varies by society, by social group, and by historno single tourist gaze. . ical period” (p. 1). The scope of Chapter 2, “Mass Tourism and the Rise and Fall of the Seaside Resort,” is limited to UK resorts, and no more than passing reference is given to the rise of seaside resorts elsewhere, a rise that helps explain the fall of their British counterparts.
Chapter 3, “The Changing Economics of the Tourist Industry,” begins by remarking that “the relationship between the PUBLICATIONS IN REVIEW 605 tourist gaze and those industries which have been developed to meet that gaze is extremely problematic. ” A strength of the chapter is its descriptive examples. Urry emphasizes a good point often overlooked: “The economics of tourism cannot be understood separately from the analysis of cultural and policy developments” (p. 41). Chapter 4, “Working Under the Tourist Gaze, ” discusses the distinctiveness of businesses providing services.
It draws on a large number of references to and examples of service workers and their management. Perhaps it could have been improved by drawing on a wider literature on service management (Hesketh 1986; Lovelock 1988). Chapter 5 deals with “Cultural Changes and the Restructuring of Tourism. ” Here, Urry discusses postmodernism and tourism, using material from several writers and from his own recent book, The End of Organised Capitalism (Lash and Urry 1987). He shows how, in certain ways, tourism has become “bound up with and partly indistinguishable from all sorts of other social and ultural practices . . . [so that] people are much of the time ‘tourists’ whether they like it or not [and thus] the tourist gaze is intrinsically part of contemporary experience” (p. 82).
Urry integrates this idea with material about emerging patterns of class structures in society, applying, in particular, certain ideas from Bourdieu (1984). Chapter 6, “Gazing on History,” deals with the heritage industry, showing how and why “heritage” is becoming more prominent in tourist destinations in Britain. An excellent discussion is presented around the controversies enerated by The Heritage Industry: Britain in a Climate of Decline (Hewison 1987). The final chapter discusses “Tourism, Culture and Social Inequality. ” Here, Urry advises against contemplating the feasibility of “the theory of tourist behaviour” (p. 135). What is required instead, he says, is “a range of concepts and arguments which capture both what is specific to tourism and what is common to tourist and certain non-tourist social practices. The concept of the tourist gaze attempts to do this . . . [by] categorising objects of the gaze in terms of romantic/collective, historical/modern, uthentic/inauthentic” (p. 135).
This chapter has a detailed treatment of visual images in modern cites, mainly Paris. The discussion might have been improved if it had used Schivelbusch’s (1980) material on 19th-century Paris and the links between travel, technology, and urban imagery. The Tourist Gaze provides a number of interesting perspectives that amount to more than an introduction to the sociology of tourism. It covers many topics and examples in its 176 pages, which means most get only superficial treatment. The limited depth also means that certain points are potentially misleading.
Moreover, the book sometimes gives the impression of flitting from source to source and from field to field, missing points that deeper and longer research may have revealed. Certain points about New Zealand, for instance, indicate superficial knowledge, to the detriment of the arguments. Discussing facilities for accommodation, meals, drink, and entertainment, the book notes that “outside the four major cites [of New Zealand] there are almost no such facilities” (p. 46). In fact, according to official surveys conducted by A. G. B.
Research, more than 70% of total tourist nights in New Zealand in the 1980s (60 million annually) were spent outside the regions where the four major cites are located, and not all those nights were spent sleeping under the stars and ruminating for entertainment on homemade sandwiches. A number of other points of discussion would have been improved with better references. For instance, the author considers tourism as a form of deviant activity and indicated the need to use a similar analytical approach, but the discussion reveals no familiarity with Cohen and Taylor’s (1978) study where the approach was discussed in detail.
The Foucaultian model (the gaze) might have been used more effectively 606 PUBLICATIONS IN REVIEW had its original style been followed. The Tourist Gate’s adaption of the model could be seen as a weak analogy. First, it is likely to be confusing, to some readers at least, because in every chapter, the phrase “the [sic] tourist gaze” recurs, inevitably tending to convey a stereotyped notion of tourism, despite an introductory point against that implication. Another point is that Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic saw the clinical gaze as about power and scientific knowledge, and Harvey (1987) has discussed a tourist gaze of the same sort.
This book cites Harvey’s article, but it does not take up the power issue in the same way. There is also a possibility of using the Foucaultian notion more dramatically, to suggest something about the origins of mass tourism. Foucault’s discussion hinges on an argument that in the 18th century, diagnosis and treatment radically changed because of new ways of looking at symptoms, in clinics-“gazing” to gain real knowledge, a departure from the abstract diagnostic methods of traditional physicians.
The first page of The Tourist Gaze, where this Foucaultian notion is introduced, led this reader to anticipate that Urry would show how a similar radical change occurred in the sociocultural environment to shift the focus or scale of tourism. The anticipation remained unsatisfied by this book. Elsewhere, however, an explanation in the Foucaultian style has been suggested. Traveling for pleasure, as a form of leisure, did not become a social practice, followed by members of a social class, until the middle of the 18th century. Before then, for all but exceptional individuals, traveling was perceived as travail.
Why and how did a sociocultural change occur, altering perceptions such that the activity came to be seen as potentially pleasurable? Why, in other words, did travail give way to the beginnings of mass tourism? No satisfactory explanation can be found in the specialist literature, but a plausible argument has been offered by Colin Wilson (1975). He described how, in the 174Os, the best-selling novel Pamela stimulated a cultural change in the leisured classes of English society. The heroine, Pamela, “made a discovery that living is not necessarily a matter of physical experiences, but that the imagination is also capable of voyages . of daydreams.
Today, this sounds banal; in the 1740s it was as startling as discovering that you could fly by flapping your arms” (Wilson 1975:36). The consequence was that the English leisured classes “learnt the art of long-distance travel” (1975:7); they learned that traveling and visiting places was a potentially pleasurable art. This can be seen as the beginning of tourism as a social (rather than individualistic) phenomenon. It was a perceptual shift in cultural environments, which dramatically changed tourism. 0 0 Neil Leiper: Department of Management Systems, Massey University, Palmenston North, New Zealand.