Car dependence as a relevant concept for sociology: future generations, equity and the transport policy stalemate

Giulio Mattioli

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

The seemingly unstoppable rise in levels of car ownership and use is a phenomenon that calls for better understanding on the part of sociology. Indeed, on one hand it contributes to two global issues that will impact disproportionately on future generations: oil depletion and climate change. On the other hand, it entails a crucial (intra-generational) equity dimension, related to the differential in accessibility to services and opportunities between car users and non-car users. In this paper, I argue that the very nature of car dependence – here defined as a dynamic and self-reinforcing macro-social process with systemic properties, that strongly resists any attempt to induce change despite increasing awareness of its negative externalities – urges scholars to focus on the trade-offs between intra- and inter-generational equity. This kind of analysis shows that while the implications of ever-increasing car dependence for intra-generational equity are very equivocal, most of the policies envisaged to stop it are feared to have negative impacts on intra-generational equity, and thus often meet strong resistance. This is likely to bring to a “transport policy stalemate”, where no serious attempt is made to reduce car use and all hopes are concentrated on a “technological fix” to eventually solve all problems. I conclude that these contradictions are arguably a defining feature of car dependence, one of its main drivers and an important reason for its path-dependent nature. In this context, research questions focused on the margins of the car system, and notably on carless households, are of great interest
Original languageEnglish
Pages26-27
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventLancaster Sociology Summer Conference 2011 - Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20115 Jul 2011

Conference

ConferenceLancaster Sociology Summer Conference 2011
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityLancaster
Period4/07/115/07/11

Keywords

  • car dependence
  • sustainable transport
  • transport policy
  • sustainability
  • intergenerational equity
  • transport and social exclusion
  • transport disadvantage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation

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