Monday, January 04, 2010


L'effet conjugué de la crise économique et du développement des nouvelles technologies de communication, est-il sur le point de modifier radicalement deux des fondements de la société américaine, à savoir la mobilité résidentielle mais aussi la mobilité quotidienne ? Peut-être. C'est en tout cas la thèse défendue par l'urbaniste Joël Kotkin dans un récent article paru dans Newsweek sous le titre "There’s No Place Like Home".

Il commence son article en rappelant quelques chiffres.

"Perhaps nothing will be as surprising about 21st-century America as its settledness. For more than a generation Americans have believed that "spatial mobility" would increase, and, as it did, feed an inexorable trend toward rootlessness and anomie. This vision of social disintegration was perhaps best epitomized in Vance Packard's 1972 bestseller A Nation of Strangers, with its vision of America becoming "a society coming apart at the seams."

In 2000, Harvard's Robert Putnam made a similar point, albeit less hyperbolically, in Bowling Alone, in which he wrote about the "civic malaise" he saw gripping the country. In Putnam's view, society was being undermined, largely due to suburbanization and what he called "the growth of mobility."

Yet in reality Americans actually are becoming less nomadic. As recently as the 1970s as many as one in five people moved annually; by 2006, long before the current recession took hold, that number was 14 percent, the lowest rate since the census starting following movement in 1940. Since then tougher times have accelerated these trends, in large part because opportunities to sell houses and find new employment have dried up. In 2008, the total number of people changing residences was less than those who did so in 1962, when the country had 120 million fewer people

Il s'interroge ensuite sur les évolutions que cela pourraient introduire sur la distribution et le commerce aux Etats-Unis.

"Nor will our car-oriented suburbs replicate the close neighborhood feel so celebrated by romantic urbanists like the late Jane Jacobs. Instead, the we're evolving in ways congruent with a postindustrial society. It will not spell the demise of Wal-Mart or Costco, but will express itself in scores of alternative institutions, such as thriving local weekly newspapers, a niche that has withstood the shift to the Internet far better than big-city dailies."

Et J. Kotkin poursuit ses réflexions sur les mutations du travail liées aux nouvelles aspirations familiales et au développement des technologies de communication.

"Our less mobile nature is already reshaping the corporate world. The kind of corporate nomadism described in Peter Kilborn's recent book, Next Stop, Reloville: Life Inside America’s Rootless Professional Class, in which families relocate every couple of years so the breadwinner can reach the next rung on the managerial ladder, will become less common in years ahead. A smaller cadre of corporate executives may still move from place to place, but surveys reveal many executives are now unwilling to move even for a good promotion.
Why? Family and technology are two key factors working against nomadism, in the workplace and elsewhere
." (...)

(...) "By 2015, suggests demographer Wendell Cox, there will be more people working electronically at home full time than taking mass transit, making it the largest potential source of energy savings on transportation. In the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, almost one in 10 workers is a part-time telecommuter. Some studies indicate that more than one quarter of the U.S. workforce could eventually participate in this new work pattern. Even IBM, whose initials were once jokingly said to stand for "I've Been Moved," has changed its approach. Roughly 40 percent of the company's workers now labor at home or remotely from a client's location."

Voir sur ce sujet d'un éventuel nouveau modèle américain, et plus particulièrement californien, notre récent Autres perspectives.