Carbon and crumpled metal
The social space of car models
Using data from the French “National Transport and Travel Survey” conducted in 2007-08, this article develops the analyses of Luc Boltanski about competition on the road in the 1970s. Whilst for the latter competition focused on styles of driving and vehicle characteristics, thirty years later, in a context where the external costs of the automobile are widely highlighted, there is also competition in relation to safety and air pollution. The aim is to show the social structures of road safety and environmental sustainability of car models, in postulating that relatively homogenous lifestyles differentiate between car models that are very unequally dangerous and polluting. The car thus makes it possible to capture the social rationales of a dual relationship with risk, road risk and environmental risk, rationales that deviate from traditional analyses of the literature on the subject ; although they contribute little to pollution, the lower social classes are however widely subject to road risk, mainly due to the low protective capability of their vehicles. Conversely, the more affluent social classes contribute greatly to road and environmental risk, even though they have high quality automotive equipment avail- able to them.
Key words. SOCIAL SPACE – CAR – ROAD SAFETY – POLLUTION – NATIONAL TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL SURVEY