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Reconstituting Automobility: The Influence of Non-Commercial Carsharing on the Meanings of Automobility and the Car



Automobility has long been understood as the normal and hegemonic way of moving and even without considering a global pandemic and the imperative of social distancing, disruptive change in everyday automobility seems far away. Based on 34 interviews with members of carsharing associations and private carsharing arrangements, this article argues that non-commercial carsharing, a self-organized form of carsharing, poses a twofold challenge to the hegemonic meanings of automobility on the level of everyday practice. First, the car’s role as status symbol is fading and overridden as an object of utility that is only used when absolutely necessary and mostly for leisure purposes. Second, the car is losing its position as the realization of individual freedom and the coercive aspects of the car and automobility become strongly present amongst non-commercial carsharers. Thereby, automobility emerges as an ambivalent issue and becomes perceived as means of liberation and means of domination simultaneously. By working with and against automobility’s hegemonic meanings on the level of everyday practice, non-commercial carsharing is changing the system of automobility from within and bears the potential for substantially altering the reproduction of the system of automobility.
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062; doi:10.3390/su12177062
Reconstituting Automobility: The Influence of
Non-Commercial Carsharing on the Meanings of
Automobility and the Car
Luca Nitschke
Mobil.LAB Doctoral Research Group, Chair of Urban Structure and Transport Planning, TUM Department
of Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Munich, 80333 Munich, Germany;
Nürtingen-Geislingen University, Faculty for Economics and Law, 73312 Geislingen, Germany
Received: 19 July 2020; Accepted: 28 August 2020; Published: 29 August 2020
Abstract: Automobility has long been understood as the normal and hegemonic way of moving and
even without considering a global pandemic and the imperative of social distancing, disruptive
change in everyday automobility seems far away. Based on 34 interviews with members of
carsharing associations and private carsharing arrangements, this article argues that non-
commercial carsharing, a self-organized form of carsharing, poses a twofold challenge to the
hegemonic meanings of automobility on the level of everyday practice. First, the car’s role as status
symbol is fading and overridden as an object of utility that is only used when absolutely necessary
and mostly for leisure purposes. Second, the car is losing its position as the realization of individual
freedom and the coercive aspects of the car and automobility become strongly present amongst non-
commercial carsharers. Thereby, automobility emerges as an ambivalent issue and becomes
perceived as means of liberation and means of domination simultaneously. By working with and
against automobility’s hegemonic meanings on the level of everyday practice, non-commercial
carsharing is changing the system of automobility from within and bears the potential for
substantially altering the reproduction of the system of automobility.
Keywords: automobility; mobility transition; carsharing; everyday life; change; automobile subject
1. Introduction: The System of Automobility and the Automobile Subject
Transport is one of the main contributors to the climate and ecological crisis and in most
countries the only sector that isn’t contributing to reducing emissions [1–3]. Furthermore, air
pollution and congestion through private car use are on the rise all over the world and are
contributing to the death of many thousands of citizens, while the increasing mobility of individuals
leads to the loosening of social ties and further individualization and atomization [4,5]. Therefore,
from a perspective of mobility justice and climate justice, in order to prevent or at least slow down
climate catastrophe and social collapse, mobilities (and the capitalist economic system) require
radical change [3,6–12]. As the persistence of a system rests on its continuous process of reproduction,
it follows that systemic change can occur when the reproduction process is altered [13–17]. Albeit or
rather because substantial systemic change currently appears unlikely on a global and structural level
[18–20], the issue of how bottom-up change can occur locally within a capitalist system of mobilities
is the main interest of this article.
Specifically, I look at the example of sharing practices in mobility. Until before the global
breakout of COVID-19, sharing mobilities experienced a technology-fueled revival as ‘Mobility-as-a-
service’ [21–23]. In this development, hitchhiking becomes on-demand ridesharing (Uber, Lyft, etc.)
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and a huge variety of vehicle-sharing (carsharing, bikesharing, e-scootersharing, etc.) emerge from
their roots in the environmental (carsharing) and anarchist (bikesharing) movement [24,25]. This said,
this article focuses on non-commercial carsharing. I define non-commercial carsharing as the shared
purchase, ownership and/or usage of a car within an institutionalized process of a defined, local
group. This can be privately between friends, neighbors and/or the extended family or formally
organized through a non-profit organization. I look at everyday practices that can be called
institutionalized, because they take place routinely and follow certain rules, while also using some
sort of tool for their institutionalization, e.g., a calendar, verbal or written agreements or a messaging
group. Sharing the asset of mobility shouldn’t create a monetary surplus, because I particularly want
to explore how forms of shared movement that are organized and operate beyond a market
rationality of growth and profit-maximization relate to the goal of a socio-ecological mobility
transition. Non-commercial carsharing (known as non-profit car clubs in the UK) hasn’t been
researched much in transport and mobility research, as I only found one article and two reports on it
within the last 20 years [26–28]. Due to this lack in research no clear quantitative comparison can be
drawn with commercial carsharing. Qualitatively however, the biggest differences lie in the
ownership structure (collective ownership of the cars by the members) and the business model (non-
profit and voluntary engagement by members) [29]. The operation is taken out as stationary
carsharing. Ultimately, this article investigates how non-commercial carsharing, a self-organized
non-profit form of carsharing, influences the meanings embedded in the ‘system of automobility’ [30]
regarding the car and (auto)mobility.
Practices related to private car ownership are far from the only problematic practice within the
contemporary capitalist mobilities system [3]. However, the private ownership of cars is the essential
piece of the ‘system of automobility’, significantly contributing to ecological damage and the
fragmentation of social relations [26,30–35]. By opening the discussion about reconstituting
ownership, sharing mobilities in general and carsharing in specific offer the potential to debate,
negotiate and reconstitute the broader everyday practices, meanings and logics behind the privately
owned car and (auto)mobilities [36,37]. It is within this reconstitution of everyday practices and
interdependent meanings where I locate this study and the PhD research it originates in.
Essentially, I want to investigate how non-commercial carsharing is reconstituting
(auto)mobility. Therefore, in this article, I will present qualitative interview data from carsharing
associations and private carsharing arrangements from the Greater Region of Munich suggesting a
reconstitution of automobility through non-commercial carsharing, towards a more ambivalent
formation of the meanings attached to the car in specific and (auto)mobility in general. This
ambivalence towards the car deepens the cracks and fissures in the hegemonic system of automobility
and alters its production and reproduction [35,38,39]. At this point, I deem it important to say that
altering everyday practices of automobility isn’t the only thing that is required for overcoming the
system of automobility. As I point out, the systemness of automobility connects it to such diverse
fields as tourism and steel production and matters such as a trend towards services and customer
preferences and behavior are simply out of scope of this article [40–42]. For a full account of how
hegemonic automobility can be overcome, these certainly deserve much attention. Nevertheless,
looking into how everyday practices of automobility are altered through non-commercial carsharing
is important as they bear the potential for altering broader cultures of (auto)mobility and ownership
relations incorporated and reproduced through hegemonic practices [43,44].
First, I will deepen the relevant theory on automobility, its systemic nature, the role of meanings
and the dialectic of freedom and coercion. The results consist of two sections, in which I will present
interview data related to the reconstitution of automobility in terms of the changing meaning of the
car from status symbol to object of utility and the meanings of (auto)mobility from freedom to
necessity. The changing role of the car brings the coercive aspects of automobility to the fore, which
are widely recognized by non-commercial carsharers. Thereby, automobility isn’t the sole means of
liberation anymore, but rather ridden with ambivalence. The discussion sets this data in relation with
the presented theory and argues that the changing meanings are inherently connected to the
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emergence of alternative automobile identities and subjects, fostering a broader alteration of the
reproduction of the hegemonic everyday structures of automobility.
To understand the hegemonic power of automobility, it is important to not think of the car as an
isolated object, but as central piece of an interrelated system of institutions, infrastructures, objects,
practices, meanings, ideologies, subjectivities and its interlinkages with humans as ‘car-drivers’ that
was produced and is continuously reproduced—the ‘system of automobility’ [30,33,45,46]. It is
impossible to grasp the lock-in of the steel and petroleum car without considering the role of the oil
and construction industry or the fascination with road movies and race cars in popular culture [45,47–
49]. This is also emphasized by Paterson: “To think purely in terms of the individualist account of ‘the car’
is to overlook most of the reasons why individual cars are highly prized commodities, objects of profound
political significance and enormously ecologically problematic. It is the systemic nature of automobility which
produces all of these effects” ([33], p. 226f.).
Automobility and the car not only provided a central object around which a whole regime of
accumulation could be organized but further actively produced the ‘automobile subject’ around
symbols, images, meanings and discourses legitimizing the regime of accumulation on a culture
political level: “Automobility has been so dominant and successful because of its ability to reproduce capitalist
society—its political economy—and its ability to mobilize people as specific sorts of subject—its cultural
politics” ([33], p. 30). Importantly, this subjectivity is not the simple determination of the above
described political-economic system but the constantly produced and reproduced outcome of the
relationship between the car and the driver through everyday automobile practices and their
governance [50,51]. Most importantly hereby is that the car enables people to organize their everyday
life independently from public transport schedules and allows for a highly individualized spatial and
temporal flexibility. Thence, instead of making individuals passive passengers in trains and buses,
automobility makes individuals “active participants [and] makers of their own travel plans” ([33], p. 134)
through driving their own car according to their own schedule, intimately interrelating the
association of freedom and automobility with the production of the automobile subject. The
automobile subject thereby emerges from the interrelation between the car and the driver
conceptualized as the hybrid of the car-driver [50]. Meanings associated with the car and
automobility are an integral part of this subjectivity and directly related to everyday practices of
automobility [52,53]. For this article the car as status symbol and the association between
(auto)mobility and freedom are the most relevant meanings.
The car was and still is a primary means of conveying personal status [8,45]. Owning a car today
is synonymous with being adolescent and economically successful and the type of car serves as an
important material signifier for personality and character traits of the car-driver [52–57]. Gorz
describes the cars’ origin as a luxury product taking precious space from other modes of transport
for the benefit of a few car-drivers: “every individual can gain and enrich more prestige on the cost of all
([34], p. 53). Interestingly, also now as nearly everybody has access to a car, the car kept its function
as symbol of prestige, distinction and personal status. Even more, owning a car became a coerced
necessity, wherefore not owning a car often carries the meaning of not being able to fully participate
in society. The car therefore is often interpreted not only as conventional status symbol but also as “a
comment of citizenship” [57], providing the status of a full member of society [53]. Additionally, the
status-bearing character of the car has to be understood in relation to a wide set of emotions towards
the car and its use, so that “we not only feel the car but we feel through the car and with the car” ([52], p.
228). Thereby, daily car use, automotive emotions and the active involvement of individuals in their
subordination to automobility produce automobile identities and subjectivities, which play a big role
in how automobility became forcibly taken for granted and part of peoples’ “daily habits and routines,
their assumptions about ‘normality’, […] and ultimately their sense of who they are in the world. […] Driving
is what normal people do” ([33], p. 223, emphasis in original), whereby everyday car usage became
established as the normal and hegemonic way of how movement is organized in modern capitalist
societies over the last century [53,58–63].
The second relevant meaning are the dialectics of freedom and coercion present within
automobility. Automobility and its central object the car on one side promise freedom and flexibility,
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while on the other side they entail coercive forces to subordinate other forms of movement and the
car-driver her/himself: “Automobility is thus a system that coerces people into an intense flexibility. It forces
people to juggle fragments of time so as to deal with the temporal and spatial constraints that it itself generates.
Automobility is a Frankenstein-created monster, extending the individual into realms of freedom and flexibility
whereby inhabiting the car can be positively viewed and energetically campaigned and fought for, but also
constraining car ‘users’ to live their lives in spatially stretched and time-compressed ways” [(30], p. 28).
Paterson describes this dialectic as automobility being simultaneously means of liberation in terms
of freedom of movement and flexibility and means of domination of the human body: “Cars express
human freedom but they simultaneously express it through the subordination of the human body not only to
the technology of the car itself and the disciplines this imposes […], but also to the whole panoply of regulatory
mechanisms constraining the automobilist’s practices as a driver” ([33], p. 142). Thereby he enlarges the
understanding of coercion from being only the coercion into the affordances of the car to the
domination of the car-driver through a whole mode of automobile politics and ‘governmobility’ [51].
However, the coercive aspects of automobility are obscured, because individuals play a substantial
and active role in the production and reproduction of the system of automobility through the making
of their own schedules, the perception of the car as status symbol and its normalization for everyday
movement. Automobility is thus purely understood as means of liberation and people conceive
practicing automobility “precisely as the realization of their freedom” ([33], p. 142) and a right to comfort
instead of a mere possibility [60].
Taking these two aspects together implies that changing the system of automobility isn’t only a
matter of inventing technology, political or economic regulation, but also of reconstituting deeply
entrenched everyday practices and their attached meanings, identities and subjectivities, wherefore
greening automobility entails a personal odyssey to remake one’s identity and re-engage others according to
different social logics” ([33], p. 223). The remaking of identity and social logics are how this article
argues for the potential of change inherent in non-commercial carsharing. Like every structural
process, automobility is continuously reproduced through everyday practices and meanings,
wherefore “automobility is neither fixed nor omnipotent, […] [but] it always contains fissures that challenge
its hegemony and suggest paths beyond it” ([35], p. 12). This article will discuss two of these fissures and
challenges in relation to changing meanings of the car as status symbol and automobility as the means
of liberation. The outcome is a rather ambivalent subject position towards automobility in stark
contrast to its hegemonic understanding outlined in this introduction. By producing alternative,
potentially resistant, automobile subjects, non-commercial carsharing then also influences the local
and broader reproduction of the system of automobility.
2. Methods: Data Collection and Analysis
This article and the data it is based on are part of my PhD research on the influence of non-
commercial carsharing on local change of the system of mobility. Munich and its Greater Region are
the political and cultural center of Bavaria and experience a constantly high population growth with
congruent traffic problems. In the city, the car ownership ratio is at 47 cars per 100 inhabitants and
considerably higher (up to 80) in the Greater Region, due to a comparably high average income and
an ingrained car culture due to the presence of BMW [64,65]. Still, in the city of Munich carsharing
membership is at 20%, also due to a very high parking pressure. However, in the surrounding
districts it drops to 12% and in the Greater Region it goes down to 3%, mostly due to the unavailability
of carsharing services [66]. The data corpus consists of 34 semi-structured qualitative interviews of
45-130 min with members of carsharing associations and private sharing arrangements. The
interviews were conducted between March 2018 and May 2019 in Munich and the surrounding
municipalities of Grafing, Markt Schwaben, Königsbrunn, Vaterstetten, Anzing, Erding, Freising and
Grasbrunn (Table 1). Interviewees were recruited through e-mail contact with the associations,
personal networks (trade union, friends, funding foundation) and outreach on social media and
neighborhood meeting locations. In addition to these interviews I conducted participant observations
at car cleaning parties, regular’s table and organizational meetings of the carsharing associations. All
except one interview were conducted in German, wherefore all the quotes in this article were
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translated by the author. Furthermore, all names are pseudonyms. As I refer to many different
interviewees in the results section, Table A1 in the Appendix A gives a brief overview of all 42
interviewees in the 34 interviews. As I regard the interviews as the analytical entity, quotes are
referred to by the interview they are from, not the specific person, albeit when relevant the person is
mentioned in the written text. Table A2 in the Appendix A gives socio-demographic information on
the interviewees.
The interview data was transcribed and analyzed using the qualitative data analysis software
MaxQDA. For data analysis I carried out two phases of coding on different levels [67,68]. The first
phase of coding consisted of substantive coding and followed a bottom-up grounded theory
informed approach [67,69,70].The second phase of coding consisted of theoretical coding, in which I
applied 70 codes in ten categories to all 34 interviews. These codes guide the theoretical interpretation
of the data and enable an easier access and overview to the relevant theoretical content of the
interviews [67–69].
Table 1. Interviews in the two forms of non-commercial sharing.
Carsharing Associations Private Ca
- & Cargobikesharing
22 interviews with 24 interviewees
8 associations:
Grafing (9)
Markt Schwaben (4)
Königsbrunn (3)
Vaterstetten (2)
Anzing (1)
Erding (1)
Freising (1)
Grasbrunn (1)
Different stages (not founded -> oldest) and
different models ‚Vaterstetten‘, Flinkster
12 interviews with 18 interviewees
11 private carsharing arrangements
1 private cargobikesharing arrangement
Mostly in the City of Munich
Arrangements mostly between 2 households with 2
to 4 participants
Interviews in groups from 1 to 4 persons
Different stages (planned to terminated) and
different models (friends, neighbors, extended families;
contracts, loosely)
3. Results: Changing Meanings of the Car and Automobility
3.1. Status Symbol or Object of Utility? The Meandering Meaning of the Car
In this first section of the results I will present how the meaning of the car shifts from status
symbol to object of utility. This shift however doesn’t occur completely, but rather ambivalently,
wherefore the meaning of the car meanders between the two poles of status symbol and object of
3.1.1. The Persistence of the Car as Status Symbol
The notion of status symbol of the car came up in many of the interviews, but mostly as general
reference to the meaning of private car ownership for other people: “It is a luxury to have a car at the
snip of your finger and for that you pay of course” (Family Schuster, Königsbrunn). Yet, the personal car
was rarely described as a status symbol. Maxim was one of the few for whom the personal car
remained a status symbol. He told me in great length about his 25 year old Mercedes that is parked
in his garage, which he wants to become an antique car very soon and deeply appreciates: “With my
own car, as it is normal, I sometimes proudly walk around it and think: ‘Woah, this just really looks nice’
(Maxim, Grafing). He told me this in contrast to the carsharing cars which he just uses to use [them]
(Maxim, Grafing) and serve the purpose of preserving his soon-to-be-antique car. For Maxim then
the meaning of the car depends on the context in relation to ownership and personal history attached
to it. Nevertheless, as it becomes clear from the first quote, he understands being proud of ones car
as the normal thing to do, whereby the meaning of the car as status symbol strongly persists.
This also becomes clear as many carsharers are conscious of the status a car still has especially
in more rural areas: “The smaller the place gets and the more rural the thinking becomes…here I think that
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the car still is some kind of possession and many people drive, because they think it is cool to drive their own
car” (Family Schuster, Königsbrunn). Particularly Robert had to realize that having a personal car is
considered the normal thing on the countryside. Before his family joined the carsharing association
in Markt Schwaben, they asked neighbors if they could go shopping with them to share the ride to
the supermarket and the trunk for the weekly shopping. However, after a few times it was clear that
their neighbors didn’t really want to share the shopping trip and actually found it weird and didn’t
understand why Robert didn’t have his own car: “On the countryside, people don’t have [a life without
cars]. Well, in Markt Schwaben many have two cars, both parents have a car and many don’t understand that
you don’t have your own” (Robert, Markt Schwaben). These experiences are reminders of the kind of
citizenship a car provides [57] and that without it one might have difficulties with being accepted as
a normal member of society.
In addition to the more implicit perception of the car as a normal part of being a citizen, there
also are occasions when the traces of the car as status symbol showed more explicitly. Helen, who
says she usually doesn’t care which kind of car she is driving, felt weird when she was taking a
carsharing car to pick up a friend from the airport and drive through Munich: “Somehow it was
important to me, that it isn’t some junky car, I have to say. I mostly prefer driving the Yaris, which is more or
less in front of our door, but to pick up my friend from the airport I didn’t want that. Red car, mh, really freaky,
better to take the silver Polo. Somehow you are still driven by society…” (Helen, Grafing). What bothered
her the most was the logo of the carsharing association on the side of each car, through which she is
clearly recognizable as not using her own car. Whereas she doesn’t mind that when she is driving in
Grafing or the surroundings, when driving into Munich she doesn’t want to appear as if she can’t
afford her own car. Thence, the idea of the car as symbol of being a normal and full citizen and the
personal status attached to it are rather persistent and traces remain even amongst convinced
carsharing members.
In quite a few instances the idea of the car as status symbol, however, served as an explicit
reference point for critique and for contrasting the car as status symbol with the own meaning
attached to the car. Judith for example doesn’t understand at all how the car can be part of personal
status and thinks it is “outrageous that it is part of self-esteem, which kind of car I have” (Judith). She told
me a story about when she was driving with the VW Golf she is sharing with her friend through their
neighborhood looking for a parking spot, when she got into a conflict with a SUV. The roads are quite
narrow in her neighborhood and there wasn’t enough space to pass each other and the SUV driver
was insisting that she makes space with her small car, so that he could pass with his big SUV: “I can’t
empathize with how it feels to drive such a thing through Haidhausen and insist that I drive back with my Golf,
because they don’t have space. That says a lot. […] I don’t think it is ok that [SUVs] are even built. At least for
the urban population, because they never go into the forest, they just don’t…but that is a status symbol
(Judith). Also for Henri the car as status symbol serves as distinctive point of reference. He thinks
that cars have too high a social status anyways, whereas his position is that a car shouldn’t bother
him: “The car for me is a means to an end. This means to an end should be made in a way that it doesn’t rain
inside, the temperature regulation, the air conditioning, should be working. […] But I don’t have an emotional
relationship to the car. That is completely foreign to me. I also think it isn’t compatible with carsharing, when
you see the car as part of your own identity” (Henri, Grafing).
Henri isn’t the only one who thinks that regarding the car as status symbol isn’t compatible with
carsharing. August told me that before he joined the camping van sharing arrangement he asked a
friend of his if he wants to share his bus. However, he quickly realized that for his friend the bus is
kind of “his baby, which he wants to protect” (Camper), wherefore he quickly gave up on this idea.
Interestingly in the camping van sharing they are now in a similar situation because their bus is old
and has some peculiarities, wherefore they decided to not share it outside the group anymore. So,
albeit the group is completely aware and actually critiques the protectionism of other people towards
their cars, they are still protecting their own car. And although they all regard the car as an object of
utility they thereby reproduce the meaning of the car as a precious possession that should have a
clearly defined circle of users. What becomes explicit in the last paragraph and was implicit in many
conversations I had, is that many interviewees show some kind of ambivalent relationship towards
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the car as a status symbol. The ambivalent relationship became especially clear in the case of Walter
who describes his relationship as ‘meandering’: “The meaning of the car was always a bit this leisure time,
this being independent, this being able to do things, but […] it was never this, I absolutely have to have a car.
It was always like, well it is nice when you have it, but at the end it works without. […] I have to admit, I think
about getting a car every once in a while. On the other side, I think this is completely stupid. So there is still
this meandering course” (Walter).
Thence, the car didn’t lose its role as a status symbol through non-commercial carsharing, but is
still an important and persistent aspect for the production and reproduction of automobility.
Sometimes strong traces of its status-bearing nature remain even amongst people who made a
conscious decision to part with the hegemony of the private car. However, as I will show in the next
sub-section the meaning of the car as object of utility is strongly present in non-commercial
carsharing, which pushes towards a more ambivalent and new understanding of the meaning of the
3.1.2. A New Meaning: The Car as Object of Utility
While the still hegemonic and dominant role of the car as status symbol within society is
traceable, influential and persistent amongst the carsharers, overall, there is a strong understanding
of the car as object of utility amongst the non-commercial carsharers I interviewed. I already talked
about Walter and his meandering relationship with the car, not being able to decide if a car actually
benefits him or not. On the other side of this meandering is his perception of the car as a pure object
of utility: “There was no dependency on a car, but it is an object that we are not married to. It is an object of
utility, right? […] This is not my car with which I connect many things, but I just use it” (Walter). Also
Erich regards the car mostly as an object of utility because he rarely just takes it for a ride, but mainly
for trips with a clear purpose of getting from A to B. To underline his statement he told me how his
car looks in detail: “It is an object of utility, not a beauty…so we don’t have any ideals for the car…the most
important thing is that it works, not that it looks good. If you would see our car, you would know why I say
that. For example the protection in the front is hanging lose. Somebody sometimes broke it and then we put it
back in and then again somebody broke it and again and again and put it back and put it back and now it is just
hanging down” (Erich, Grafing). This understanding of the car as object of utility influences practices
of carsharing and automobility towards managing the cars for utility and a more conscious
relationship to automobility, which lastly result in the car always being used with a purpose.
The car seen as object of utility doesn’t mean that the carsharers don’t care about the car, quite
the contrary. The carelessness that shines through with Erich is only for the outside appearance of
the car and not its actual functioning. Simone told me that in the associations car wardens are
responsible for detecting damages to the cars and bringing them to the workshop. However, in the
case of small scratches normally nothing is done, because “basically, [with] a scratch, the car still is able
to drive” (Simone, Freising). Furthermore, the boards of the associations pay a lot of attention to the
cars being appropriate for the users’ needs. Rosa told me, that they once bought a car that turned out
to not have a trunk that was big enough, wherefore many of the members complained to her and her
board colleagues. The members said they mostly use a car when they have to transport something
and that a car that only fits one crate of beer is useless to them. Consequentially, this was also visible
in the usage of the car as it was the car which was used the least. Since then the board only buys cars
that are one size bigger and have the biggest possible trunk for their size: “The color doesn’t matter,
everything doesn’t matter, as long as the trunk is big…it is quite funny…well, not everything doesn’t matter
(Rosa, Markt Schwaben). Thus, the meaning of the car as object of utility is clearly ingrained in the
way how the carsharing cars are collectively managed, by focusing on their functionality, usability
and utility for the members’ needs.
Additionally, the very basic principles of how carsharing works, support the stabilization of the
new meaning through revealing the real costs of car driving and making the planning of car use
necessary. Mariarosa describes the outcome of this as a more conscious relationship to mobility:
Every member in carsharing is more conscious about mobility. Because you think, well, what am I doing?
How do I get there? Can I get there by public transport? Do I have time pressure, so that I then have to take the
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car? That is a huge learning process that one participates in (Mariarosa, Grafing). Mariarosa was actually
able to observe this process through the usage of the cars. Albeit the association gained many
members in the last years, they didn’t have to get new cars by the same proportion. So each car is
used by more members and each member uses the cars less. Rosa experienced this effect as an
educational effect on the cost of driving a car: “We always notice when a new member joins: Hurray, drives
a lot. Then the first bill arrives. The trip to the super market is five euro. Do I need that? Is it worth it? The
next time they prefer going by bike, when they don’t have a lot. […] This education is also an important effect
(Rosa, Markt Schwaben). As there is only one Euro cent per kilometer for the overhead and the
booking system, the price for using a carsharing car represents the ‘real’ costs of driving a car,
however, still excluding the environmental and social costs. These costs are often hidden when using
a personal car, because people don’t take insurance, taxes, repairs and acquisition into account. [71]
Through the regular bills each carsharing member is able to see for themselves what each trip costs
and can decide more easily which trip is worth doing by car and which isn’t. For most carsharers
however, the cost comparison between a personal car and carsharing was mostly a general reason for
joining carsharing rather than a specific reason for not doing a certain trip.
The main aspect for a more conscious usage of the car is the requirement of planning car use,
due to the fact that if you want to use a car you have to book it in advance instead of just walking out
the door. Most people told me about some kind of increased planning they have to undertake when
making any trip since they are using carsharing: “We always plan, no matter what we do, we briefly think
about what makes the most sense (Walter). Frigga for example told me that she did start to plan her car
usage better. She started to reduce the times she actually uses a car by only going shopping once a
week or simply taking the bike more often. She said that this is because “you have to think about it in
advance. When do you need the car…and a week in advance you should start planning” (Frigga, Markt
Schwaben). Likewise, Hannah decided to plan her usage and also book the car in case she is not
completely sure if she will actually use it or not: “Yes, you have to look and book a car timely. I can reconcile
with my consciousness, that I rather book more and earlier and then cancel again. Before I tended to wait too
long and then it was too late” (Hannah, Grafing). Having to organize car use is also an issue within
private sharing arrangements, albeit the problems of overlapping were mostly dealt with when
setting up the arrangement as they were seen as a general threat to the existing friendship, wherefore
there either are clear rules on who can use the car when, a replacement such as StattAuto or the
possibility for negotiating the need for a car between the sharers. For many carsharers planning car
use and mobility more generally develops into a routine significantly changing their overall mobility
habits and behavior, echoing Paterson’s description of “personal odyssey” [33]: I think, that I overcome
myself much less and say…for that the car is worth for me, that I travel a certain distance. […] I don’t just
drive somewhere, but I am much more conscious about which vehicle I take” (Clara, Vaterstetten).
The just explained aspects of carsharing - managing for utility on the organizational level of the
association, making the cost of car driving transparent and making the planning of car use
necessary—result in and develop from the car always being used with a purpose. Maxim for example
only takes his personal or a carsharing car when he has to transport something: “It is a bit a functional
thing. From a certain amount of things that I have to transport or pull on a trailer I would then drive with the
car” (Maxim, Grafing). Another common occasion when the carsharing car was used, was when
alternative modes of transport weren’t feasible, especially when the distance was too far for cycling
and there is no worthwhile public transport connection. Furthermore, members said that when they
use a car they try to combine as many things as possible so that they don’t have to use a car that often:
I can’t imagine a car ride, where we only do one thing. […] It should also have a side effect, an organizationally
sensible, in order to justify [the car] to a certain extent” (Clara, Vaterstetten). Thus, for all the occasions
when carsharers were using a personal or carsharing car they justify the purpose of their car use,
whereby car use is always connected to a purpose with a specific reason. Hannah made the attitude
most of the carsharers have towards the car explicit: “The car is reserved for situations when it doesn’t
work differently. The priority is just different” (Hannah, Grafing). Thence, for all carsharers the usage of
the car had to be necessary in the sense of requiring the transport of goods or reaching a destination
that otherwise can’t be reached. The car isn’t valued as such, but rather is valued for the specific
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 9 of 20
purpose that it enables be it transport, accessibility or leisure activities. Thence, the meaning of the
car as object of utility allows for a different priority of the car—it actually becomes the last alternative.
3.2. Meanings of Automobility: The Dialectics of Freedom and Coercion
This section will present the expression of the dialectics of freedom and coercion inherent in
automobility amongst non-commercial carsharers. In the first sub-section, I will present how freedom
is still relevant for non-commercial carsharers in relation to automobility in specific and mobility in
general. However, as I will show in the second sub-section, through perceiving mobility as necessity
the coercing aspects of automobility gain significant traction and recognition amongst non-
commercial carsharers.
3.2.1. (Auto)Mobility and Freedom
The connection between mobility and freedom is widely present and recognized amongst the
non-commercial carsharers and when this meaning of freedom was mentioned prominently it was
often set in relation to the car: “I made my driver’s license now finally with 27 or 28. And then I also had a
feeling of freedom, what other people probably have already when they are 18. But this feeling, that you can now
decide for yourself to drive everywhere with a car, […] that definitely is a feeling of freedom” (Karl-Theodor).
David expressed this freedom as independence he gained through his driver’s license. Before he was
able to drive a car mobility was cumbersome for him as he had to drive long distances by bike or was
dependent on his parents. Now with his license and carsharing he is independent on when to move
where: “Well, a car as such [is always independence] and there is not much left to carsharing. There is not a
big difference. So [carsharing] definitely is a piece of independence” (David, Königsbrunn).
In other cases the connection between freedom and automobility wasn’t made explicit, e.g., by
referring to flexibility. For many interviewees it was important to be flexible when they are moving,
no matter with which mode of transport: “Flexibility and uncomplicated, that’s how it should be. […] For
me it is like, ok, now I want to go somewhere and then it also has to happen somehow in the next month
(Beverly). Selma even thinks that because the car is so flexible it will not disappear as a mode of
transport. In this context she also sees carsharing critically, because having to plan in advance for her
is the exact opposite of flexibility and freedom. Thence, the perception of freedom isn’t necessarily
only connected to driving itself, but also to flexibly decide on when to drive as “makers of their own
travel plans” [33]. Usually this is perceived as only being possible with a personal car, an
understanding of which most interviewees are well aware and sometimes reproduce themselves. For
Henri the easy and flexible access to the freedom and comfort of a car is even part of his quality of
life. Having a car available allows for the flexibility of planning according to one’s own schedule and
being independent from public transport or weather, while providing a high level of air-conditioned
and non-strenuous comfort for moving. This resonates with the comfortability of the car that is often
foregrounded and actually became naturalized as “long held cultural beliefs that one has the right to be as
comfortable as one can afford to be” [60].
Thence, the association of freedom with (auto)mobility is still persistent amongst non-
commercial carsharers, especially in relation to independence, flexibility and comfort. The societally
valued connection of (auto)mobility and freedom remains intact through the car being used and
valued for leisure activities. Suzanne told me that her car is mostly a leisure vehicle that she doesn’t
use daily, e.g., for shopping or commuting, but for keeping contact with friends who life further away
and leisure activities such as climbing or skiing in the mountains. Her current (privately shared) car
is actually a test on how much she needs it, but she doesn’t want to become dependent on it: “In any
case I won’t become dependent on a car, that I say without the car, it isn’t possible anymore. And as long as I
live in Munich and don’t move further out, I don’t really need it. It is a test for me so to say, how much do I
use this car, do I actually take it? At the moment I wouldn’t want to give it away, because I already got used to
it being in front of the door and that one can just quickly go to the mountains or visit someone somewhere,
but…, if it’s gone, it’s gone. That would also be fine” (Suzanne). Therefore, instead of the car being an
indispensable status symbol for free movement whenever to wherever, the car rather becomes a
dispensable object of utility that enables more flexibility for leisure activities. Thereby, the hegemonic
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 10 of 20
understanding that the car is always, necessarily and predominantly a signifier for freedom and
means of liberation is challenged, enabling a more ambivalent understanding of the significance and
meaning of the car and automobility.
This contestation is also visible in some carsharers describing situations and conditions under
which a reduction or limitation of freedom is desirable. Also here Walter provided a good example:
I don’t want to think every evening how I am getting from A to B. I somehow want to get into this daily grind.
[…] This isn’t a dream come true, but that is reality. […] I do the same rituals every day, drive there, drive
back, leave it and go out again. I never have to think about if it works, it just works” (Walter). Quite obviously
getting into a daily grind and building rituals is far away from having full freedom, but nevertheless
Walter sees it as reality and the essential aspect of using a car in everyday life. Other carsharers
described the limitation of freedom more explicitly. Hannah for example is limiting her mobility
through not flying a lot and says that she is “willing to abstain from mobility, from the technologically
possible” (Hannah, Grafing). Just because it is technologically possible doesn’t mean for her that it is
sensible or reasonable to be mobile.
Summing up this sub-section, I want to emphasize that as with the meaning of the car as status
symbol the association of mobility and automobility with freedom isn’t disappearing through non-
commercial carsharing. Rather, through the car becoming a leisure vehicle and decoupled from daily
use, freedom and utility are co-present. Yet, the just described implicit and explicit references to self-
chosen limits on freedom of movement by car actually hint at a tension and negotiation with an
understanding of (auto)mobility other than freedom.
3.2.2. (Auto)Mobility and Coercion
Amongst the carsharers I spoke with the most prominent meaning of (auto)mobility besides
freedom was seeing (auto)mobility as necessity, as already shone through when only using the car
with a purpose. For example Murray never drives around for fun. He said, that maybe at his 18th
birthday when he got his license he went for a cruise with the car, but for him mobility is a means to
an end and a necessary evil. He actually understands every kind of mobility as something forced
upon him. In case he has to move far with a car, e.g., to visit his father-in-law he tries to deal with it
as normal life-time through talking or listening to the radio and never regards movement for its own
sake, because it would push him into being annoyed of traffic. While this is on the extreme end of the
meanings attached to mobility amongst the carsharers, it nevertheless illustrates that mobility can
also be associated with force and as means of domination.
Ivan also doesn’t regard mobility as a purpose of its own but as necessary evil and reaction to a
lack of something: “I am convinced by the argument, that mobility isn’t a purpose on its own but […] a
symptom of deficiency. When I have to get from A to B, then I have to do that, because I have a lack of something
in A. So I have to get to B to get rid of that lack” (Ivan). Because of this meaning of mobility, he tries to
reduce his movement to a small area where he can rely on his own body for movement and reduce
his speed of movement. Similarly, Ulrike said that being able to walk is the most valuable form of
movement for her: “Mobility on foot is the most valuable for me. I want to get self-determined from A to B
on my own feet without a wheelchair or something else” (Ulrike, Grafing). She therefore chooses the place
she lives according to the mobility options available, as it is important for her to be able to reach
public transport on foot, allowing her to not depend on the car.
Karl brings many of the carsharers statements in relation to the meaning of mobility together
when he describes mobility as a basic need of life, on which social relations depend. However, the
satisfaction of this basic need produces traffic, which is “the ugly twin sister of mobility. Because
everybody wants mobility, but nobody wants traffic” (Karl, Vaterstetten). Instead of demands for more
freedom to move through increased transport infrastructure, for him this leads to the questions if
every mobility is necessary or reasonable and how mobility can be organized to reduce traffic. This
means that he understands mobility not as ‘God-given’, but as something that is shaped. Mobility is
produced and sometimes forced through decisions on where people live, which hobbies they have,
where they make their vacations or how a city is planned. The resulting traffic is rarely taken into
account when these decisions are made, creating unnecessarily large mobility needs: “And then I
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suddenly have to drive somewhere. That is a burden for me. That is not fulfillment. That is forced mobility. I
have to have it, but I don’t want it” (Karl, Vaterstetten).
The argument I thus make here is that besides associating mobility with freedom there is a strong
association of mobility with necessity. The association with freedom is further challenged through a
conscious abstention from speed by valuing walking and taking mobility into account when deciding
on how and where to life. Thence, many non-commercial carsharers in my study have a differentiated
understanding of mobility as a socially produced relationship between movement and stillness [72],
instead of unrestrained movement and freedom.
These alternative meanings of mobility open the door for recognizing the coercive aspects of
automobility and the car. Once again Walter described the coercive nature of the car and automobility
very clearly: “When they have their own car, then they have to use it, because otherwise it doesn’t pay off. The
simple fact that they have it, leads to people preferably doing everything with it, because otherwise they pay
double” (Walter). Paying double means that when he picks up his two kids by public transport
somewhere within Munich, he easily pays 10–12€. With a privately owned car the perceived costs for
this trip are marginal as the investment in the car is done anyways already, so the large investment
that is made into the car creates a necessity to use the car for the investment to be worth it. Every
additional form of transport, be it public transport or a well maintained bike are extra costs for
mobility, that from a pure monetary perspective are not necessary, resulting in automobility
subordinat[ing] the other mobility-systems of walking, cycling, rail travel and so on” [45].
Other interviewees described the coercion more implicit and from the perspective of their
personal history: “It is the normal model in our neighborhood. One driver’s license at least one car, if not
more” (Ivan). This normality and self-evidence of the private car is also a form of coercion, linking
back to the cars’ “comment on citizenship” [57]. Especially in rural areas this is a persistent relation,
also due to the lack of alternative transport infrastructure, leading to a coercion into the car as a mode
of transport. Christa and her husband, who have been living in more rural areas for a long time
described this quite vividly. In Anzing the alternatives to the car are sparse with no regular bus
service to many neighboring villages which would have access to the suburban trains. During our
interview I talked with them about the reactions of the people in Anzing to their initiative for
founding a carsharing association and they told me that many have the attitude of: “We have our cars
we don’t need [carsharing]” (Family Schmidt, Anzing). People in Anzing arranged themselves with the
situation that they need to use the car to get around, whereas it became so normal that alternatives
are hard to take into account or to imagine. Thus, I was intrigued if they took mobility into account
when moving there. Initially they wanted to move closer to Munich, but the place in Anzing was
what they could get so “you just surrender somehow” (Family Schmidt, Anzing). This as a telling
statement about automobility as it signifies acceptance of a situation that one can’t really change and
carries a strong notion of powerlessness and coercion. Automobility remains the only feasible option
and again demonstrates its strong coercive nature, which however at least is becoming visible.
Also the directly coercive aspects of automobility in relation to flexible schedules and attention
to the road were described in the interviews. Robert told me that his life as car-dependent husband
was really stressful: “I always had to commute on a tight schedule. I was always stressed because with the car
she called: ‘Now you have to come home.’ Then she knew exactly I am home in 15 min, because the commute is
15 min. So I quickly had to get to the car!” (Robert, Markt Schwaben). This changed when the car broke
and they moved to Markt Schwaben. Since then he takes public transport to work and can relax more
on his commute and at work. In case he has to go home earlier, he now doesn’t need to leave
instantaneously by car but can just take the next suburban train, significantly reducing his stress. Not
commuting by car anymore didn’t only relief Robert from the flexible coercion of the car but also
relieved him from the coercion into attention while moving: “On the way there I could read” (Robert,
Markt Schwaben). Driving a car requires a lot of attention, wherefore automobility also coerces
people into spending their time on driving a car: “The driver’s body is itself fragmented and disciplined to
the machine, with eyes, ears, hands and feet, all trained to respond instantaneously and consistently, while
desires even to stretch, to change position, to doze or to look around are being suppressed” [30]. While this is
an aspect that is often neglected by car-drivers or attempted to compensate through conversations
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with fellow passengers or entertainment systems, like radios [60,73], many of the carsharers saw the
attention that is required by driving as undesirable or even coercive: “If it is possible with public
transport I prefer that, because I can sit and look out of the window and don’t have to concentrate on traffic.
Well, I don’t like driving a car” (Mariarosa, Grafing).
Lastly, also private car ownership becomes understood as coercive as it is widely perceived as a
burden by non-commercial carsharers. Understanding private car ownership as burden is a decisive
break with understanding the car as personal status symbol that has to be cleaned and cared for
regularly. Walter attributes carsharing with just a nice feeling. You always get a car, that is ready, that is
maintained and at the end you give it back and have nothing to do with it anymore” (Walter). For James this
actually was his main reason for joining carsharing. He used to own a car for many years, which
sometimes was standing around for multiple weeks or months and then had an empty battery, rusted
breaks or some other damages that needed repairs: “The car for me was just a burden, a cost factor. It has
to go to the technical inspection and it…you know what I mean? These things…taxes, insurance have to be
paid without me having a great benefit from it” (James, Königsbrunn). For James carsharing actually is
an improvement regarding the availability of a car, because he knows that when he needs a car he
gets one that will work. With his own car this was reverse, making carsharing the more comfortable
option, without carrying the burden of caring for a car.
Summing up, through relating mobility to necessity rather than to freedom the coercive aspects
of automobility, such as car dependence in rural areas, being tied into flexible schedules, forced
attention and the burden of car ownership, become visible for the carsharers. Hence, non-commercial
carsharing challenges the coercion of the private car, especially when there is no personal car present
in the household. Walter described this as the provision of full freedom of choice in terms of
transportation. Instead of being forced to use the private car due to the costs sunk into its investment,
he can choose the mode of transport that makes the most sense for every trip: “Before travelling [my
wife and me] think specifically what we are going to do, what is the most reasonable mode of transport. And for
that you have the free choice. […] [Carsharing] gives you the flexibility of not having to drive a car” (Walter).
4. Discussion: Shifting Meanings of Automobility and the Car: Reconfiguring the Automobile
In this article I explored two meanings of automobility, specifically the role of the car as status
symbol and automobility as means of liberation and their reconstitution by non-commercial
carsharing. Through the production, reproduction and (self-)governance of the automobile subject,
these aspects provided the system of automobility with an immense stability over the last century
[33,51,52,60]. Nevertheless, fissures and cracks in the reproduction of automobility open the
possibility for a reconstitution of the hegemony of the private car [38,39]. In the last sections I
delineated two of these fissures and thereby outlined how the meanings of automobility are
influenced by non-commercial carsharing.
First, through practicing non-commercial carsharing the car is losing its role as status symbol
and becomes understood more as an object of utility. This alteration of the role of the car stands in a
close relationship with a more conscious use of the car and the retreat of the car in everyday mobility.
The car ambivalently emerges as a leisure vehicle, which enhances leisure activities but isn’t
perceived as absolute or necessary requirement. The car as object of utility allows for a more rational
relationship to the car, whereas the car as status symbol was generally perceived as the irrational
cause for the problems of automobility. The persistence of the car as status symbol highlights the
need to understand the role and meaning of the individual car in relation to the societal meanings of
automobility. It is not only the individual significance a person gives to a car, but also the values that
are collectively attached to the car, which relationally create the attached meanings: “The individual
psychological investment in the car can be said to arise out of the sensibility of an entire car culture” ([52], p.
225). Any attempt at changing the hegemonic position of automobility and the individual meaning a
person attaches to a car therefore has to pay attention to the co-presence of meanings of the car and
automobility within society. This means that there can’t be a replacement of one meaning by the
other, but only a reconstitution with different emphases and hegemonic meanings. Therefore, it is
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 13 of 20
impossible to reconstitute automobility without being part of its production and reproduction. For
this reason and by acknowledging the hybrid of the car-driver according to Paterson “the appropriate
response to automobility is neither simple celebration nor condemnation, but ambivalence” [33] (p. 163,
emphasis in original). And in quite some of the cases it can’t be clearly said which meaning is most
dominant, but they are rather in a constant ambivalent and ‘meandering’ relationship with each
other, mixing and creating hybrids such as the leisure vehicle. Thus, instead of the car being an
indispensable status symbol for citizenship and free movement whenever to wherever, the car rather
becomes a dispensable object of utility that enables more flexibility for leisure activities and sociality.
Second, the dialectics of freedom and coercion inherent to automobility become expressed
differently through non-commercial carsharing. Paterson argues that automobility is predominantly
understood as means of liberation and fulfiller of human freedom, while the coercing and dominating
aspects of automobility are obscured and barely recognized [32,33,45,62]. While automobility
predominantly presents itself as pure means of liberation, in this article I presented data showing
that amongst non-commercial carsharers mobility is also strongly associated with necessity and
understood as necessary evil to remedy deficiencies. This strongly influences the appreciation of
automobility and its conception as realization of individual freedom working against the force of
‘governmobility’ [51]. Thence, the relationship between liberation and domination is more
ambivalent in non-commercial carsharing. On one side the non-commercial carsharers are clearly
aware of the positive aspects and associations of automobility such as personal status, flexibility,
independence and freedom. On the other side they also recognize that these positive aspects are
coerced onto individuals actually limiting the realization of freedom. Thence, both aspects of the
dialectics of automobility—and coercion—are present and widely recognized by non-commercial
carsharers starkly contrasting the hegemonic expression of automobility as sole means of liberation
and freedom. Therefore, non-commercial carsharing is challenging the hegemony of the private car
not only through shifting the meaning of the car from status symbol to object of utility, but also
through a different expression of the dialectics of freedom and coercion.
As the changes in the meanings of automobility and the car I argue for are taking place on an
individual level, the means for the reconstitution of automobility need to be sought in the production
and reproduction of the automobile subject. In very general terms the automobile subject describes a
generic type of person “oriented towards the sort of movement which cars make possible” ([33], p. 121). In
the introduction I already discussed that the automobile subject is an essential aspect of legitimizing
automobility on the level of everyday practice as it production and reproduction is intimately tied to
the individual realization of freedom through enabling people to be the makers of their own travel
plans. The automobile subject emerges from the hybrid of the car-driver and is strongly interrelated
with the meanings individually and collectively attached to the car and automobility [50,52,53].
Thence, I come back to a quote by Paterson from the introduction: “Greening automobility entails a
personal odyssey to remake one’s identity and re-engage others according to different social logics” [33] (p.
223). What he means with this, is that in order to change the system of automobility, its social relations
ingrained in the automobile subject, need to be reconfigured. In this article I showed how non-
commercial carsharing bears the potential for this personal odyssey by shifting the meaning of the
car towards object of utility and automobility to means of domination. I described how, many of the
carsharers experience a remaking of their automobile identity and subjectivity through giving up car
ownership partially or all together, reducing car usage in everyday life, having to plan their mobility,
changing their mobility behavior, feeling annoyed and pressured by the car and perceiving car
ownership as burden. Thence, by changing the perspectives on and meanings of the car in specific
and automobility in general, automobility ceases to be conceived purely as the realization of
individual freedom, significantly reconfiguring automobile identity and subjectivity. The described
ambivalence is a clear indicator and result of this ongoing reconfiguration of the automobile subject
and the tension between hegemonic and alternative automobile identities and subjectivities. This
becomes even clearer when taking into account that non-commercial carsharers are actively engaged
in changing the meanings, identities and subjectivities around mobility and automobility and are also
not shy of formulating this into a broader vision for the future of automobility: “It has to have a certain
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 14 of 20
necessity [to use the car]. I think the way it is used often or that there are so many cars…well…I don’t know if
I am leaning too far out of the window, but I think, if you would have the attitude towards a car as we have, if
that would be more common, I dare to claim, that there would be less cars” (Mountain Hut).
My fieldwork shows how non-commercial carsharing simultaneously works with and against
the infrastructures, cultures and socialities of private car dependence” ([35], p. 12) in order to overcome
them. Thereby, non-commercial is promising for a reconstitution of automobility and breaking with
the hegemony of the private car. Non-commercial carsharing is ‘puncturing automobility’ [38] and
alters its continuous reproduction by reconfiguring automobile identities and subjectivities, through
subtle and quiet but nonetheless resistant practices [16,74]. Hence, the argument I made and defended
is that the very basic characteristics of non-commercial carsharing, using and owning cars together,
produce a shift in the meanings of the car and automobility, causing a reconstitution of automobility
through reconfiguring the production and reproduction of the automobile subject and producing
alternative automobile identities and subjectivities, ultimately challenging the hegemony of
automobility in everyday life [35,38,52].
Yet, as implied above, this is only one part of moving beyond automobility, wherefore in these
last paragraphs I put the alteration of everyday practices of automobility through non-commercial
carsharing into perspective [75]. First of all, non-commercial carsharing locally establishes an
alternative mobility culture [76,77]. Alternative practices, meanings, identities and subjectivities alter
how automobility and its practices become normalized and habitualized amongst non-commercial
carsharers and beyond in the relations and encounters of carsharers and non-carsharers. This means
that for fostering a transition towards more sustainable forms of (auto)mobility, fostering non-
commercial carsharing is highly beneficial, especially in rural contexts, where no alternative
carsharing options exist. In urban contexts, commercial carsharing is already strongly established,
yet the tendencies for shifting meanings of the car and (auto)mobility are certainly present within
commercial carsharing, wherefore nurturing, supporting and exposing those can become a decisive
goal for local urban politics, e.g., through general measures to reduce the ongoing primacy of the
private car also in urban contexts.
Second, there certainly is a “long road from particular […] processes to a broader radical
transformation” ([78], p. 102) and with this research I don’t imply that non-commercial carsharing
solves it all: “A transition toward sustainable mobility therefore requires more than changing how much
energy we use in everyday life in our cities. [...] To reduce global greenhouse gases depends on shifting the
entire material assemblage of modern life” [(7], p. 152). Taking into account that many cars are bought for
leisure purposes and holidays requires to rethink how we make vacations [42]. And clearly, a shift
towards more mobility services has implications for a whole range of industries [40]. Nevertheless,
with this study on non-commercial carsharing I make a contribution to understand howdeep cuts in
carbon use in transport are inextricably linked to such issues as the organisation of contemporary societies, the
role of transport therein” ([79], p. 1004) and their materialization in everyday practices and meanings.
Non-commercial carsharing gets to the heart of this relationship and alters its basic premises through
invigorating alternative meanings of the car as object of utility and mobility as necessity.
For further research it would be interesting to investigate if the processes and tendencies I
identified in this study are exercised differently in different contexts, exercised at all or remain
unrealized? For examining the practical role and potential of non-commercial carsharing in fostering
a socio-ecological mobility transition, these are extremely relevant questions that require more
qualitative research on non-commercial forms of sharing mobilities. The only other in-depth study
on non-commercial carsharing I found in the literature by Newman on Talybont in Wales and an old
report on car clubs in the UK make similar claims, wherefore more research on non-commercial
carsharing is promising for outlining pathways towards a socio-ecological mobility transition [26,27].
Thus, to finally conclude, changing and re-embedding high-carbon everyday practices of
automobility in the Global North through non-commercial carsharing is a first and important step
for a socio-ecological mobility transition, especially as it potentially paves the way for broader change
through altering everyday practices and meanings of automobility [7,11].
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 15 of 20
Funding: The Ph.D. research this article is based on was funded by the Hans-Böckler-Foundation in the context
of the Doctoral Research Group mobil.LAB (Promotionskolleg 032). The publication of the work was supported
by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in the framework of the Open Access Publishing Program.
Acknowledgments: Most of all the author would like to thank his research participants. Without them and their
openness this work would not have been possible. The author is also grateful to the editors of the special issue,
Sven Kesselring, Weert Canzler and Vincent Kaufmann, for their editorial guidance and support. The author
also thanks the anonymous reviewers for their feedback and suggestions which enabled the improvement of the
Conflicts of Interest: The author declares no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the
study, in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data, in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to
publish the results.
Appendix A
Table A1. Overview of all interviews with pseudonym, form of sharing, position/relationship,
duration and place of residence. M = Munich, y = years.
Interview Pseudonym Form Position//Relationship Member
since//Duration Place of Residence
Karl Karl Association Board & founder 26 y. Vaterstetten
Clara Clara Association Member 20 y. Vaterstetten
Rosa Rosa Association Board 12 y. Markt Schwaben
Antonio Antonio Association Board & founder 25 y. Markt Schwaben
Frigga Frigga Association Member 6 y. Markt Schwaben
Robert Robert Association Member Approx. 8 y. Markt Schwaben
Helen Helen Association Member 1.5 y. Grafing
Henri Henri Association Extended board Approx. 8 y. Grafing
Maxim Maxim Association Member 1 y. Grafing
Ulrike Ulrike Association Member 4.5 y. Grafing
Hannah Hannah Association Member 9 y. Grafing
Mariarosa Mariarosa Association Board & founder 20 y. Grafing
Erich Erich Association Member & warden 7 y. Grafing Bahnhof
Bob Bob Association Member Approx. 5 y. Grafing
Elmar Elmar Association Member & warden At least 6 y. Grafing Bahnhof
David David Association Member 1 y. Königsbrunn
Schuster Friedrich Association Member 2 y. Königsbrunn
Schuster Sophie Association Member 2 y. Königsbrunn
James James Association Member 2 y. Königsbrunn
Schmidt Christa Association Founder To be founded Anzing
Schmidt Georg Association Founder To be founded Anzing
Simone Simone Association Board & warden 15 y. Freising
Murray Murray Association Board & founder 4 y. Erding
Jean-Paul Jean-Paul Association Member 1.5 y. Grasbrunn
Theodor Stella Private Friends 3 y. M: Laim
Theodor Cinzia Private Friends 3 y. M: Hirschgarten
Theodor Béla Private Friends 3 y. M: Laim
Theodor Tariq Private Friends 3 y. M: Hirschgarten
Raya Raya
StattAuto Neighbors 14 y. M: Westend
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 16 of 20
Table A1. Cont.
Ivan Ivan Private Extended family 8 y. Wolfratshausen
Beverly Beverly Private Friends 12 y. M: Schwabing
Suzanne Suzanne Private Friends 2 y. M: Laim
Judith Judith Private,
StattAuto Friends 16 y. M: Haidhausen
Karin Karin
sharing Neighbors 1.5 y. M: Schwabing
Hut Nancy Private Friends 0.5 y. M:
Hut Louis Private Friends 0.5 y. M: Nymphenburg
Selma Selma Private Neighbors To be founded Neubiberg
Martha Martha Private Extended family 3 y. M: Bogenhausen
Walter Walter Private,
StattAuto Friends 10 y. M: Haidhausen
Camper Mimi Private Neighbors 5 y. M: Riem
Camper August Private Neighbors 5 y. M: Riem
Camper Ellen Private Neighbors 3.5 y. M: Riem
Table A2. Socio-demographics of the interview partners. Most values are estimates as their exactness
isn’t relevant for my argument. F = Female, Male = M, ? = Unknown, Mu = Munich, N = No, Y = Yes.
Pseudonym Age Sex Education Job Income Car Ownership
Karl 60s M University Economist Middle N
Clara 50s F Abitur Librarian Rather high N
Rosa 50s F ? ? Rather high N
Antonio 50s M University Environmental
technician Rather high Y
Frigga 60s F University Pensioner Low N
Robert 40s M University IT technician Rather high Y
Helen 30s F
Abitur ? Middle Y
Henri 61 M University Self-employed High N
Maxim 68 M University Pensioner Rather high Y
Ulrike 50s F ? Elderly care Low Company car
Hannah 40s F University Psychotherapist Rather high N
Mariarosa 60s F ? ? Rather high Y
Erich 62 M University Medical informatics Middle N
Bob 60s M University Social worker & bike
technician Rather high Y
Elmar 60s M University Project manager Rather high Y
David 20 M Abitur Student Low N
Friedrich 50s M University Energy technician Rather high Y
Sophie 50s F ? ? Rather high Y (with Friedrich)
James 60s M University Pensioner Middle N
Christa 40s F University Social work Rather high Y (own)
Georg 40s M University Social work Rather high Y (own)
Simone 50s F ? Civil servant Middle N
Murray 50s M University Teacher Middle N
Jean-Paul 30s M PhD ? Rather high N
Stella 30s F University Social worker Middle Y (camping van)
Cinzia 30s F University ? Middle N
Béla 30s M ? ? Middle Y (camping van)
Tariq 30s M University ? Middle N
Raya 70s F University Pensioner Middle N
Sustainability 2020, 12, 7062 17 of 20
Table A2. Cont.
Ivan 40s M ? CEO energy start-up Middle N
Beverly 30s F ? Media Rather high N
Suzanne 30s F University Project manager Rather high N
Judith 70s F Apprenticeship Flight attendant,
elderly services Low N
Karin 30s F ? ? Rather high Y
Nancy 30s F
Abitur Carpenter Low N
Louis 30s M Middle School Waiter Low N
Selma 40s F University Political scientist Middle N
Martha 39 F University Public relations Rather high N
Walter 50s M University ? Rather high N
Mimi 40s F ? Musician Middle N
August 40s M University Engineer Middle N
Ellen 60s F ? Self-employed Middle N
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... A third type of access-based carsharing business model is also known as the non-profit car club (Bonsall et al., 2002) or self-regulating community (Hofmann et al., 2017), based on collective car ownership and usage within a defined or institutionalized local group such as friends, neighbors, or a non-profit organization (Nitschke, 2020). This model is typically characterized by a communal interest in sharing cars rather than any profit motive (Cohen and Kietzmann, 2014;Münzel et al., 2018). ...
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Utilizing James C. Scott’s germinal concept of everyday resistance, we examine the subtle, daily acts of resistance carried out by Mexican and Jamaican migrant farmworkers in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. We argue that despite finding themselves in situations of formidable constraint, migrant farmworkers utilize a variety of “weapons of the weak” that undermine the strict regulation of their employment by employers and state authorities. We also argue that everyday forms of resistance are important political acts and as such, they warrant inclusion in scholarly examinations. Indeed, by reading these methods neither as “real” resistance nor as political, we risk reproducing the same systems of power that de-legitimize the actions, agency, and political consciousness of subaltern and oppressed peoples. After a brief discussion on the concept of everyday resistance, we provide an overview of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), establishing the conditions that drive migrant workers to resist and drawing connections between the regulatory framework of the SAWP, the informality of the agricultural sector, and migrant labor. Finally, we examine specific instances of resistance that we documented over 3 recent years through ethnographic fieldwork and as community organizers with a grassroots migrant justice organization. We assert the importance of situating migrants’ everyday acts of resistance at the center of conceptualizations of the broader movement for migrant justice in Canada and worldwide.
We spend much of our lives in transit to and from work. Although we might dismiss our daily commute as a wearying slog, we rarely stop to think about the significance of these daily journeys. In Transit Life, David Bissell explores how everyday life in cities is increasingly defined by commuting. Examining the overlooked events and encounters of the commute, Bissell shows that the material experiences of our daily journeys are transforming life in our cities. The commute is a time where some of the most pressing tensions of contemporary life play out, striking at the heart of such issues as our work-life balance; our relationships with others; our sense of place; and our understanding of who we are. Drawing on in-depth fieldwork with commuters, journalists, transit advocates, policymakers, and others in Sydney, Australia, Transit Life takes a holistic perspective to change how we think about commuting. Rather than arguing that transport infrastructure investment alone can solve our commuting problems, Bissell explores the more subtle but powerful forms of social change that commuting creates. He examines the complex politics of urban mobility through multiple dimensions, including the competencies that commuters develop over time; commuting dispositions and the social life of the commute; the multiple temporalities of commuting; the experience of commuting spaces, from footpath to on-ramp, both physical and digital; the voices of commuting, from private rants to drive-time radio; and the interplay of materialities, ideas, advocates, and organizations in commuting infrastructures.
The car has been identified as an element of modern identities, interwoven also with gender relations. The masculinity of the automobile subject draws on the steering and controlling of the car as a technological object. Th us, driverless cars potentially call into question the gendering of the automobile subject. With the aim to assess this potential degendering, in this article I analyze two very diff erent visions of driverless automobility. The focus is placed on the imagined users, the sociospatial context, and its gendered dimensions. I then reflect on the status of the videos, elaborating on their impact on the future of (auto)mobility and their meaning for mobility research. Gendering of cars, then, is seen as an element of a deeper socioeconomic order and its inherent power relations. Th us, future genderings cannot be simply read off technological visions but will instead develop in unforeseeable social contestations.