Sociology, 46(3) pp 555-561

It is now five years since Sheller and Urry (2006) published their summation of an emergence across the social sciences of the ‘new mobilities paradigm’. Sheller and Urry posited then that a form of interdisciplinary convergence was occurring centring on interests with mobility. Research that took mobility as its object and topic, they argued, had demonstrated that the world is increasingly defined by, and realized in, the movement and circulation of people, goods, materials, and information across and within different spatial scales. Of course, to claim a ‘new’ paradigm one must also demonstrate that what has gone before was, or has come to be seen as, an inadequate or outmoded rendering of knowledge and methodology; thus, they argued, the social sciences had hitherto been characterized by ‘static’ forms and arenas of inquiry. The article was intended, and succeeded, as a consolidation of that convergence and the outlining of a future programme of novel theory and method which would replace the formerly ‘immobile’ sociology. In this essay, via a review of three edited collections, I consider the development and, arguably, the proliferation of that paradigm and ask the question: how far does mobility get us? Of course, one is immediately prompted to ask a second question: how far toward what? For those whose lives may be studied and described within the new mobility paradigm, the question is loaded and the answers multifarious. For some, mobility brings success, security, and hope. For others, mobility is a burden and their constant movements get them precisely nowhere. For the social scientist, the question ‘how far does mobility get us?’ is best answered by considering what analytical concern underpins the contemporary attention to and, perhaps, fetishization of mobility?