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The system of car provision: elements of a political economy of car dependence

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Presentation at 20th Conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics 6th July 2018

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The system of car provision: elements of a political economy of car dependence

  1. 1. Sustainability Research Institute SCHOOL OF EARTH & ENVIRONMENT The system of car provision: elements of a political economy of car dependence Giulio Mattioli*, Cameron Roberts, Julia Steinberger, & Andrew Brown *Sustainability Research Institute & Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds G.Mattioli@leeds.ac.uk 20th Conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics 6th July 2018
  2. 2. The ‘Living Well Within Limits’ research project (2017-2021) • Interdisciplinary project • How to decouple energy/CO2 use from human well-being? • Question typically approached using neoclassical lenses (utility theory, ‘green growth’)  leading to standard sets of questions and answers 2
  3. 3. Research question:  What influence do social and technical provisioning systems have on the levels of resource use associated with well-being? (in two sectors: electricity and passenger transport) A conceptual pathway around mainstream economics 1. Needs-based understanding of human well- being; 2. “Satisfiers” of human needs as flexible, culturally & historically specific; 3. Provisioning systems and heterodox economic view of supply chains; 4. Energy services rather than energy supply. Idea 1 Idea 4 Idea 2 Idea 3
  4. 4. The political economy of car dependence  a ‘car dependent transport system’ = one in which high levels of car use have become a key satisfier of human needs, largely displacing less carbon intensive alternatives (Mattioli, 2016) [narrowed down the scope: no freight, no air travel / shipping, no efficiency of vehicles/fuels] Our work:  investigating the political economy of car dependence, adopting a SoP approach  critical literature review in a number of fields 4
  5. 5. The ‘Systems of Provision’ (SoP) approach • approach to concrete research within political economy that originated in consumption studies (Fine, 2002; Fine & Leopold, 1993; Fine et al., 2018) • recognises the specificities of any one provisioning process, whilst at the same time incorporating understanding of the more general dynamics of the capitalist system • applied to e.g. housing and water (Bayliss et al., 2013) Key lessons (for our work): 1. ‘vertical’ analysis framework  understand consumption as closely related to production (and vice-versa)  significant factors vary by SoP - no factors with general applicability 2. significance of history  “prevailing state of affairs rests heavily on past forms of provision” (Fine et al., 2018, p.40) 3. inductive approach 5
  6. 6. Identifying the ‘elements’ of a SoP • “Each SoP consists of the multiplicity of factors that lead to and shape consumption. These are wide-ranging…” (Fine et al., 2018, p.30) • “… by their nature, SoPs are unique. The SoP approach, then, is necessarily heavily inductive in application, leaving researchers to identify the nature, scope and content of particular SoPs in practice” (p.33) • “… not simple, not least in identifying where one SoP begins and the other ends” (p.33) • for research purposes it is usually necessary to shine a spotlight on the elements of the SoP that are of particular relevance to the issue under consideration” (p.34) 6
  7. 7. 5 key elements 7 Automotive industry Provision of car infrastructure Car dependent land-use patterns Provision of public transport Cultures of consumption
  8. 8. 1. Production: the automotive industry  high capital intensity / large economies of scale  endemic overcapacity / overproduction  low / declining profit margins  need for continued expansion of the market 8 (Nieuwenhuis & Wells, 2003; Orsato & Wells, 2007; Wells, 2010; 2013; Wells & Orsato, 2005; Wells et al., 2012) production of all-steel car bodies
  9. 9. 2. The provision of car infrastructure • the appropriation of road space for car use in the early phases of motorisation: from ‘shared’ to ‘car dominated’ space • physical and social reconstruction of city streets (as motor thoroughfares)  resulting restrictions and immobilizations for other modes • the state creating ‘use value’ for the car-as-commodity? Making cars ‘worth buying’ • ultimately creating the need for cars 9
  10. 10. 2. The provision of car infrastructure Road building legitimized in multiple and contradictory ways:  required BY & FOR economic growth  for popular consumerism & regional development  solution to problems (congestion, safety) caused by motorisation  mainstream economics appraisal tools (CBA, value of travel time savings) At the same time:  road network expansion results in increased car ownership/use (‘induced demand’)  tends to fuel self-reinforcing cycle  economic interests (‘road lobby’) stand to benefit from it…  …and actually influence policy- making 10 • road network expansion enables accommodation of mass vehicle production • the public sector aspect of car dependence
  11. 11. 3. Car-dependent land use patterns • the built environment strongly influences car ownership and use • low density, low street connectivity, monofunctionality → car dependence • ‘urban sprawl’ typically presented as unintentional outcome of market and policy ‘distortions’, and lack of planning • alternative Eco-Marxist perspective (Gonzalez 2005; 2006)  1930s US sprawl actively promoted/subsidized by federal government with ‘hidden welfare state’ instruments (Howard, 1993; Logemann, 2002)  ‘stimulus’ to demand for consumer durables & energy, to absorb overproduction in key industries  environmental inefficiency of sprawl = a feature, not a bug
  12. 12. 4.The provision of public transport • car dependent land-use patterns make PT provision more difficult, put higher coordination burden on viable public transit • in suburbia PT can provide ‘anywhere-to-anywhere’ service that is competitive with the car only with ‘multi-modal network planning’ (Mees, 2010):  system based on high frequency, transfers, coordinated timetables, multi- modal integration, cross-subsidization  requires public control of ‘strategic’ & ‘tactical’ level of PT provision (operational level can be private/tendered) ►political economy dimension • since 1980s-1990s: push towards deregulation / privatisation of PT:  UK since 1985: most extreme example  EU: since 1995 green paper (but didn’t get as far)  Global South: from traditional to ‘informal’ public transport service
  13. 13. 5. Cultures of consumption: the ‘car’ culture Individual factors predisposing drivers to prefer car travel over alternatives  emotional and psychological attachment for driving  habits, embeddedness of car in everyday practices Macro-level cultural repertoires / ‘techno-tales’:  from road transport as embodying modernity & progressivism…  …to mundane necessity for which there is no alternative The material culture of the car commodity:  from class distinction to (sub)cultural distinction (Gartman, 2004)  from signifier of ‘freedom’ to ‘cocooning’ (appeal as personal space) (Wells & Xenias, 2015)
  14. 14. Interconnections 14 Automotive industry Provision of car infrastructure Car dependent land-use patterns Provision of public transport Cultures of consumption advertising road lobby stimulus coordination burden synergetic developmentstigmatisation of PT
  15. 15. Conclusions • entrenched in several key sectors of society/economy • ‘escaping car dependence’ only possible if we understand interconnections • addressing only one aspect means being foiled by all others • links with some broader dynamics of capitalism (e.g. overproduction, deregulation/privatisation)… • …but some of the key factors are specific (e.g. built environment) • applying heterodox economic ideas to environmentally unsustainable production-consumption patterns: promising area (where mainstream economics has failed) • SoP useful to integrate insights from different fields/disciplines 15
  16. 16. • http://lili.leeds.ac.uk • Twitter: @liliproj Sustainability Research Institute SCHOOL OF EARTH & ENVIRONMENT Thank you for your attention! G.Mattioli@leeds.ac.uk http://lili.leeds.ac.uk @liliproj
  17. 17. …and now:
  18. 18. References Bayliss, K., Fine, B., & Robertson, M. (2013). From financialisation to consumption: The systems of provision approach applied to housing and water. FESSUD Working Paper No. 02. Fine, B. (2002). The world of consumption: the material and cultural revisited. Psychology Press. Fine, B., Bayliss, K., & & Robertson, M. (2018). The Systems of Provision Approach to Understanding Consumption. In: Kravets, O., Maclaran, P., Miles, S., & & Venkatesh, A. (Eds.). (2018). The SAGE Handbook of Consumer Culture. Sage. Fine, B., & & Leopold, E. (1993). The World of Consumption. London, New York: Routledge. Gartman, D. (2004) ‘Three Ages of the Automobile The Cultural Logics of The Car’, Theory, Culture & Society, 21(4–5), pp. 169–195. Gonzalez, G. A. (2005). Urban sprawl, global warming and the limits of ecological modernisation. Environmental Politics, 14(3), 344-362. Gonzalez, G. A. (2006). An eco-Marxist analysis of oil depletion via urban sprawl. Environmental Politics, 15(4), 515-531. Howard, C. (1993). The hidden side of the American welfare state. Political Science Quarterly, 108(3), 403-436. Logemann, J. L. (2012). Trams Or Tailfins?: Public and Private Prosperity in Postwar West Germany and the United States. University of Chicago Press. Mattioli, G. (2016). Transport needs in a climate-constrained world. A novel framework to reconcile social and environmental sustainability in transport. Energy Research & Social Science, 18, 118-128. Mees, P. (2010). Transport for suburbia: beyond the automobile age. Routledge. Niewenhuis, P., & Wells, P. (2003). The automotive industry and the environment. CRC Press. O’Neill, D. W., Fanning, A. L., Lamb, W. F., & Steinberger, J. K. (2018). A good life for all within planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability, 1(2), 88. Orsato, R. J., & Wells, P. (2007). U-turn: the rise and demise of the automobile industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 15(11), 994-1006. Wells, P. E. (2010). The Automotive Industry in an Era of Eco-Austerity. Elgar. Wells, P. (2013). Sustainable business models and the automotive industry: A commentary. IIMB Management Review, 25(4), 228-239. Wells, P. E., Nieuwenhuis, P. A. H. F., & Orsato, R. J. (2012). The nature and causes of inertia in the automotive industry: regime stability and non- change In: Geels, F., Kemp, R., Dudley, G., & Lyons, G. (Eds.). Automobility in transition?: A socio-technical analysis of sustainable transport. London: Routledge. Wells, P., & Orsato, R. J. (2005). Redesigning the industrial ecology of the automobile. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 9(3), 15-30 Wells, P., & Xenias, D. (2015). From ‘freedom of the open road’to ‘cocooning’: Understanding resistance to change in personal private automobility. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 16, 106-119.

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