A critical evaluation of the so-called ‘mobility paradigm’
This essay offers a critical evaluation of the recently emergent ‘mobilities paradigm’. With a primary focus on the work of John Urry, one of the chief architects of this new perspective, the paradigm is first distilled into its main constituent parts. This begins with its critique of conventional ‘a-mobile’ social science, arguing instead that society and social life should be seen as ontologically mobile. Attention is then paid to the way in which the mobilities perspective challenges the orthodox belief that social life is independent from the realm of ‘objects’. In contrast, it recognises the way in which the heterogeneity of social life is necessarily constituted through the interconnection between various human and non-human entities. Having outlined its core tenets, the usefulness of its insights will then be demonstrated by critically applying them to notions of reflexive modernity and individualisation, showing how they can help pursue a deeper understanding of social networks and intimate relationships in contemporary society. Discussion then turns to some of the critiques levelled at this mobility-focused outlook, in particular in regard to claims that rather than becoming more fluidly mobile some aspects of society are in contrast becoming fixed and entrapped. Nonetheless, despite these challenges, it is concluded that in order for sociology to maintain its analytical purchase on contemporary society, it must undoubtedly heed the call to incorporate aspects of mobility into its investigative toolkit.