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“People in Motion” – The Influence of Spatial Mobility on Social Space: A Social Historical Study of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1975–2010.

Ph.D. Student: Raphael Emanuel Dorn (University of Trier)

Within the framework of globalization, decentralization measures and an increasing need for flexibility have fundamentally changed our ways of life. Indeed, flexibility demands one main thing of us all: mobility. Many scholars see mobility as the key phenomenon of modern times. At the same time, research has indicated that a more general social transformation has taken place. Whereas post-war German society could still be defined as a leveled middle-class society, it developed into a differentiated society over the period from the mid-1970s to the present. Was there a link between increasing mobility (as perceived by contemporary subjects) and this social change? This project brings these two phenomena together.

Guided by its goal to assess the effects of geographical mobility, this project examines the impact of movement in geographical space on social space. Did geographic processes of mobility determine movement up or down the social ladder – were they even a prerequisite? Spatial mobility as defined in this project subsumes not only daily commuting, but also moving house, and it generally refers to the experience of changing centers of life. Covering the period from the mid-1970s to today, this project looks at the rhythms and changes in direction affecting changing social structures in Germany. In scholarly discourse, questions related to the opportunity for participation in particular have often been raised in connection with social developments. So far, however, the role of space in the reproduction of social injustice has received very little attention. Given its focus on the last three decades of German history, the reunification of Germany is especially significant for this project. Did reunification speed up processes of mobility in a noticeable way? And, lastly, this study generally compares the extent of the transformation of the last few decades in relation to earlier social experiences.