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Criticizing “automobilism”, a stance historically defended by the most radical factions of ecologism and anti-capitalism (Mugyenyi, Engler, 2011; Duverger, 2014), is today part and parcel of a discourse that preaches the sustainable development of mobility, a vague but nevertheless inescapable statement (Thévenot, Lafaye, 1993), that must be taken with a grain of salt when considering the reality of families’ daily lives. Though the emergence of an “eco-habitus” is in fact perceptible among particular categories of individuals (Carfagnaet alii, 2014), how do pro-environmental attitudes inform certain individuals’ choices of mobility? Are the rather tenuous dynamics of de-motorization, noted in some social groups (Chevalier, 2014), linked to the upsurge of ecological values, or else—as other research would seem to indicate—are travel habits still dissonant vis-a-vis environmental-friendly options, even among groups most committed to political ecology (Pruvost, 2015)? Answering these questions yields a better understanding of the different forms of resilience, but also conflict, which characterize the use of the automobile in contemporary France.
The aim of this article is, on the one hand, to test the hypothesis that, contrary to other consumer practices, using the car is relatively detached from attitudes to the environment and, on the other hand—based on a qualitative study carried out among a particularly car-dependent secondary sample—to grasp how individuals describe, all in the same breath, their use of the car and their sensibility to the environment…


This article tests the hypothesis that, unlike other consumer practices, daily mobility practices are relatively unrelated to environmental attitudes and values. To achieve this, we compare the statistical trends observed in a general population survey and a body of interviews carried out with a sub-population particularly constrained in its car use. After a presentation of data from the Lifestyles and Environment Survey, we define the indicators available to evaluate our hypotheses - environmental attitude indicators from the New Environmental Paradigm Scale (NEPS)—but also car use. Next, we present the results of our statistical analyses, first using descriptive statistics and then using models, all other things being equal. The results are discussed in the light of the qualitative survey conducted in Loire-Atlantique among twenty-three lower-class households living in peri-urban or rural areas. Our research tends to indicate that, generally speaking, environmental values only marginally influence individual car use. More specifically, with regard to the sub-population studied, the constraints of daily life, the budget allocated to travel and the lack of real alternatives in terms of comfort and speed often prevail, particularly in the peri-urban and rural areas studied.

  • daily mobility
  • environmental attitudes
  • dissonance
  • NEP scale (NEPS)
  • ecological conversion
  • car use

Conversion écologique vs dépendance automobile. Une analyse des dissonances entre attitudes environnementales et usages de l’automobile auprès de ménages populaires en zone périurbaine et rurale

Cet article s’attache à éprouver l’hypothèse selon laquelle, à l’opposé des autres pratiques de consommation, les pratiques de mobilité quotidienne, sont relativement déliées des attitudes et des valeurs environnementales. Pour y parvenir, nous complétons les tendances statistiques observées à partir d’une enquête par questionnaire inédite en population générale par un corpus d’entretiens menée auprès d’une sous-population particulièrement contrainte dans ses usages de l’automobile. Après une présentation des données de l’enquête Styles de vie et environnement(SVEN), nous définissons les indicateurs à notre disposition pour évaluer nos hypothèses (indicateurs d’attitudes environnementales issus de la New Environmental Paradigm Scale (NEPS), mais aussi usages de l’automobile). Dans un deuxième temps, nous présentons les résultats de nos analyses statistiques, d’abord à l’aide de statistiques descriptives, puis de modélisations toutes choses égales par ailleurs. Les résultats obtenus sont alors discutés au regard de l’enquête qualitative menée en Loire-Atlantique auprès de vingt-trois ménages des classes populaires résidant en zone périurbaine ou rurale. Le présent travail tend à indiquer, de façon générale, que les valeurs environnementales n’influent qu’à la marge sur les usages de l’automobile des individus. Plus spécifiquement, en ce qui concerne la sous-population étudiée, les contraintes du quotidien, le budget accordé aux déplacements et l’absence d’alternatives réelles en termes de confort et de rapidité ont souvent raison des discours, en particulier au sein des zones périurbaines et rurales étudiées.

  • mobilité quotidienne
  • attitudes environnementales
  • dissonance
  • NEP scale (NEPS)
  • conversion écologique
Yoann Demoli
Yoann Demoli is associate professor at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and researcher at the Laboratoire Printemps and the Laboratoire de sociologie quantitative. After his doctoral dissertation in 2015 on the contemporary importance of the automobile in the social class system of France, he worked on several aspects of the mobility of households, taking off from large, public statistical surveys. He is presently in charge of the CONDUIRE project (Constructing sustainable, inclusive, and responsible mobilities) financed by the Agence De l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie (ADEME), aiming to grasp the conditions for transiting towards more inclusive and responsible forms of mobility.
Matéo Sorin
Matéo Sorin is a researcher at the Centre nantais de sociologie. In 2018, he defended a thesis on collective local movements, based on a survey carried out among six branches of multinational companies. As well as contributing to the CONDUIRE project, he participated in the ANR CLASPOP (“Working class” - “populaire” - today. The social and cultural recompositions of contemporary workers’ and employees’ worlds).
Axel Villaereal
Axel Villareal is a post-doctoral researcher in the CONDUIRE project at the University of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and the laboratoire Printemps. In 2014, he defended a thesis entitled ‘The automobile industry facing the trial of the electric car: between change and continuity’ « L’industrie automobile à l’épreuve des voitures électriques: entre changement et continuité ». He is particularly interested in the changes that affect all the actors concerned by the issue of mobility.
Translated by
Gabrielle Varro
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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