John Urry

John Urry in 2013.
Born(1946-06-01)1 June 1946
London, United Kingdom
Died18 March 2016(2016-03-18) (aged 69)
Lancaster, United Kingdom
SpouseSylvia Walby
Academic background
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Academic work
InstitutionsLancaster University

John Richard Urry FAcSS (/ˈʊəri/; 1 June 1946, London – 18 March 2016, Lancaster) was a British sociologist who served as a professor at Lancaster University. He is noted for work in the fields of the sociology of tourism and mobility.

He wrote books on many other aspects of modern society including the transition away from "organised capitalism", the sociology of nature and environmentalism, and social theory in general.


Born in London and educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, Urry gained his first degrees from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1967, a 'double first' BA and MA in Economics, before going on to gain his PhD in Sociology from the same institution in 1972. He arrived at Lancaster University Sociology department as a lecturer in 1970, becoming head of department in 1983 and a professor in 1985.

Urry was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Founding Academician of the UK Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences,[1] and was a Visiting Professor at both Bristol and Roskilde Geography Departments.

His partner was the sociologist Sylvia Walby.

Research interests

His original research interests were in the sociology of power and revolution and this resulted in the publication of Reference Groups and the Theory of Revolution (1973) and Power in Britain (1973).

Early work at Lancaster was in the area of social theory and the philosophy of the social sciences. Social Theory as Science, (1975, 1982), co-written with his colleague Russell Keat, set out the main features of the realist philosophy of science. Critical confrontation with a number of Marxist traditions, of Althusserian structuralism, German state theory, and neo-Gramscian theory, resulted in the Anatomy of Capitalist Societies (1981).

Research Areas

Research until his death focused on five main areas.


First, there was the urban and regional research mainly associated with the Lancaster Regionalism Group. Collaborative research resulted in Localities, Class and Gender (1985) and Restructuring. Place, Class and Gender (1990) Two particular themes were pursued: the relationship between society and space (as in the Social Relations and Spatial Structures, co-edited with Derek Gregory, 1985); and the possibilities of developing local economic policies (as in Place, Policy and Politics, 1990).

Economic and social change

The second area of research was the more general dimensions of economic and social change in western capitalist societies. This resulted in three jointly written books, Capital, Labour and the Middle Classes (1983); The End of Organized Capitalism (1987); and Economies of Signs and Space (1994; latter two with Scott Lash).

Consumer and tourism services

Thirdly, research focused upon one particular set of industries that are of particular significance in contemporary western societies, namely consumer services and especially tourist-related services. The economic, social, environmental and cultural implications of such developments can be seen in The Tourist Gaze (1990, 2002: 2nd edn.), Consuming Places (1995), Touring Cultures (1997, edited with Chris Rojek), Tourism Mobilities (2004, edited with Mimi Sheller), and Performing Tourist Places (with J-O Barenholdt, M Haldrup, J. Larsen). This concern was extended to issues of environmental change and the 'sociology of nature' see Contested Natures (1998), Bodies of Nature (2001) (both with Phil Macnaghten) and Climate Change and Society (2011).


Fourthly, Urry had various research projects and publications relating to the changing nature of mobility. Publications include: Sociology Beyond Societies (2000), a special issue of Theory, Culture and Society, (August 2004 on Automobilities coedited with Mike Feathersone, Nigel Thrift); Mobile Technologies of the city (2006); coedited with Mimi Sheller. John Urry also directed the Centre for Mobilities Research between 2003 and 2015 and was later the co-director of the Institute for Social Futures.

Complexity theory

Finally, John Urry had been exploring some implications of complexity theory for the social sciences. Publications here include Global Complexity (2003), and "Complexity", a special double issue of Theory, Culture & Society (2005).

He was also one of the founding editors of the new journal Mobilities, and served as editor of the International Library of Sociology since 1990 (Routledge).

Books published

(excluding foreign language editions; books translated into 10+ languages)


  1. ^ "Professor John Urry FAcSS". Academy of Social Sciences. Archived from the original on 6 August 2017. Retrieved 5 August 2017.