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Underpinned by a new drive towards well-being, the 1950s and 60s witnessed growing levels of intolerance with regard to the auditory stress of modern life. Although introduced twenty years earlier, this theme found new resonance during this period. Noise became a “social scourge”. Doctors began to investigate its negative effects on the body and helped to develop new medical guidelines and address public concerns. While silence once again became a sign of social distinction, and organisations were successful in erecting “noise control” as a worthy cause, public authorities likewise established a modern “right to silence”. Regulating noise standards, a ban on honking cars in city centres and expanded punitive damages in terms of noise pollution structured this historical endeavour to ensure peace and quiet for all. By shedding light on a particular facet of contemporary attitudes, this article hopes to more broadly analyse the mechanisms that govern shifting tolerance levels and the social logic of which they are the historical consequence.


  • sensitivity
  • noise landscape
  • modernity
  • medicine
  • social classes
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