The London Riots – On Consumerism coming Home to Roost: by Zygmunt Bauman

These are not hunger or bread riots. These are riots of defective and disqualified consumers.

Revolutions are not staple products of social inequality; but minefields are. Minefields are areas filled with randomly scattered explosives: one can be pretty sure that some of them, some time, will explode – but one can’t say with any degree of certainty which ones and when. Social revolutions being focused and targeted affairs, one can possibly do something to locate them and defuse in time. Not the minefield-type explosions, though. In case of the minefields laid out by soldiers of one army you can send other soldiers, from another army, to dig mines out and disarm; a dangerous job, if there ever was one – as the old soldiery wisdom keeps reminding: “the sapper errs only once”. But in the case of minefields laid out by social inequality even such remedy, however treacherous, is unavailable: putting the mines in and digging them up needs to be done by the same army which neither can stop adding new mines to the old nor avoid stepping on them – over and over again. Laying mines and falling victims of their explosions come in a package deal.

All varieties of social inequality derive from the division between the haves and the have-nots, as Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra noted already half a millennium ago. But in different times having or not having of different objects is, respectively, the states most passionately desired and most passionately resented. Two centuries ago in Europe, a few decades ago still in many some distant from Europe places, and to this day in some battlegrounds of tribal wars or playgrounds of dictatorships, the prime object setting the have-nots and the haves in conflict was bread or rice. Thank God, science, technology and certain reasonable political expedients this is no longer the case. Which does not mean though that the old division is dead and buried. Quite on the contrary… The objects of desire, whose absence is most violently resented, are nowadays many and varied – and their numbers, as well as the temptation to have them, grow by the day. And so grows the wrath, humiliation, spite and grudge aroused by not having them – as well as the urge to destroy what have you can’t. Looting shops and setting them on fire derive from the same impulsion and gratify the same longing.

We are all consumers now, consumers first and foremost, consumers by right and by duty. The day after the 11/9 outrage George W. Bush, when calling Americans to get over the trauma and go back to normal, found no better words than “go back shopping”. It is the level of our shopping activity and the ease with which we dispose of one object of consumption in order to replace it with a “new and improved” one which serves us as the prime measure of our social standing and the score in the life-success competition. To all problems we encounter on the road away from trouble and towards satisfaction we seek solutions in shops.

From cradle to coffin we are trained and drilled to treat shops as pharmacies filled with drugs to cure or at least mitigate all illnesses and afflictions of our lives and lives in common. Shops and shopping acquire thereby a fully and truly eschatological dimension. Supermarkets, as George Ritzer famously put it, are our temples; and so, I may add, the shopping lists are our breviaries, while strolls along the shopping malls become our pilgrimages. Buying on impulse and getting rid of possessions no longer sufficiently attractive in order to put more attractive ones in their place are our most enthusing emotions. The fullness of consumer enjoyment means fullness of life. I shop, therefore I am. To shop or not to shop, this is the question.

For defective consumers, those contemporary have-nots, non-shopping is the jarring and festering stigma of a life un-fulfilled – and of own nonentity and good-for-nothingness. Not just the absence of pleasure: absence of human dignity. Of life meaning. Ultimately, of humanity and any other ground for self-respect and respect of the others around.

Supermarkets may be temples of worship for the members of the congregation. For the anathemised, found wanting and banished by the Church of Consumers, they are the outposts of the enemy erected on the land of their exile. Those heavily guarded ramparts bar access to the goods which protect others from a similar fate: as George W. Bush would have to agree, they bar return (and for the youngsters who never yet sat on a pew, the access) to “normality”. Steel gratings and blinds, CCTV cameras, security guards at the entry and hidden inside only add to the atmosphere of a battlefield and on-going hostilities. Those armed and closely watched citadels of enemy-in-our-midst serve as a day in, day out reminder of the natives’ misery, low worth, humiliation. Defiant in their haughty and arrogant inaccessibility, they seem to shout: I dare you! But dare you what?

  • http://www.davefeickert.co.nz Dave Feickert

    If Blackberry Messenger is a new social requirement of young people for group messaging and is free, it becomes a consumer item of choice for rebelling youth. There is an intersection of income and purchase as each of us knows; if you have kids then normally their benefit comes first, now matter if we are on the minimum wage. However, there are now many young people who are virtually wageless in the formal economy; so it is income, rather than products to buy and/or steal that is the crucial issue. and we know that the reduction of real wages in the developed world produced all that speculative hot money for the new financial classes who then screwed up out of greed and arrogance and the deregulation of their neoliberal political friends.

    • K Waite

      Not liking the rise of the Riotocracy. Also reading about the marketisation of youth. http://www.aat.org.uk/content/item17308/. I agree that particularly for teenage boys it has become increasingly difficult to gain access to part-time or casual work. This means that they have no income and see no prospect of gaining full-time employment without any experience.

    • Terri Rees

      I think that income might just about be enough if there was no drive to over consume BUT I think that there is a parallel issue here: one of a crisis of hegemony. Those who should be ruling through legitimacy have made themselves appear unworthy of trust and appear to be increasing their wealth at the expense of the general populace. They are perceived therefore, to no longer have true legitimacy, only power.

  • Heather

    Here in NYC we have a performance artist named Reverand Billy who for 10-plus years has warned of the Shopocalypse. He presides over the Church of Stop Shopping, which has its own choir.

    Here he is as a guest on Glenn Beck, an American right-wing/populist talk-show host who nonetheless gets a big kick out of the concept. Billy's persona is based on a strain of American televangelists and mega-church media-savvy pastors, who more usually use their positions to push conservative social agendas and raise money. Some preach that prosperity and luxury are a birthright.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wxjl2ERhnI

    • Joe

      That is not funny. That is ridiculous.

      • toby

        no, i think it's funny

  • Dan

    This calls to mind EB Thompson: "In 18th-century Britain riotous actions assumed two different forms: that of more or less spontaneous popular direct action; and that of the deliberate use of the crowd as an instrument of pressure, by persons "above" or apart from he crowd. The first form has not received the attention which it merits. It rested upon more articulate popular sanctions and was validated by more sophisticated traditions than the word "riot" suggests. The most common example is the bread or food riot, repeated cases of which can be found in almost every town and county until the 1840s. This was rarely a mere uproar which culminated in the breaking open of barns or the looting of shops. It was legitimised by the assumptions of an older moral economy, which taught the immorality of any unfair method of forcing up the price of provisions by profiteering upon the necessities of the people."

    http://past.oxfordjournals.org/content/50/1/76.ci

  • http://www.tidalgrace.com tg

    DIS-affected: What does this mean?

    We create: http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lp

  • Jaegra Oriades

    There are some underlying truths to this essay, and it's clear that the looters' targets are motivated by a drive to possess symbols of conspicuous consumption without all the bother of acquiring the surplus wealth for that consumption. But, when the author flies off into rhetorical hyperbole like, "Shops and shopping acquire thereby a fully and truly eschatological dimension," and descends to invoking Bush, at this point more an ideological shibboleth, and an outdated one at that (it's 2011, not 2008!), than it is even empty rhetorical color, he ceases to present arguments to society and takes up the petty role of a declaimer preaching to his own choir. There's real sociological work to be done here in studying the effects of vastly increased organizational capability in juvenile crime (they're able to deploy looters from multiple gangs and faster than the police, and they can withdraw the core looters before the police intervene, leaving the peripheral members behind to throw rocks), the ineffectiveness of state mechanisms to respond to attacks (even on the police' own bases of operation), and the vast differences in responses from non-state mechanisms in different segments of society ranging from passivity to vigilantism (i.e. the Sikh population, which has successfully warded off looters). Sputtering on about Bush and shopping-as-religion doesn't do anything but confirm stereotypes and cliches all around–for the author, the readers in his choir, and those ideologically predisposed to contract him.

    • Vigilant Satyr

      It seems to me that while the author claims that everybody wants social equality, he ignores the fact that not everyone wants to put in the work nor has the ambition to earn that equality. And then he invokes the leftist touchstone of Bush as the source of all suffering and completely runs off the rails.

      • eHead

        It's a lot easier to put in that work when you are born into a privileged class, and have good parents who teach you the ropes, provide a descent education for you, don't beat you, etc…

        I get really tired of people advocating the meritocracy and responsibility and all that, when they started the race way ahead of others, and can't figure out why the rest can't catch up.

      • alfred venison

        dear eHead

        thanks for that – you've saved me some typing.

        yours sincerely

        alfred venison

      • Jeremy

        eHead and others…

        You should tire first of those that speak of equality as if it can be achieved and with a single mind, defined. Neither are true and therefore assumptions based on equality can easily be discarded.

      • gerry

        Turd in reverse here, I wot.

      • Harry

        To the repliers of this email: I am from a completely poor background. I was born in a council estate to unemployed parents. I was good at school, never committed any violent crime, and always got what I needed because of money from the state. I consider any poor person in the UK to be only a victim of his own incompetence, like an aristocrat who misplaced his keys. People are criminal because they are criminal, not because of class – but maybe partly because of upbringing – in which case their parents are their enemy, not society or the state.

    • Death Metal Nightmar

      property would be something to analyze in this. not just state mechanisms, "Criminal" mechanisms and other boring topics that have obvious end points of congruence. we're talking about western, individualist/atomist nonsense and people are wondering "why" its happening? come on.

      and what about the comment of "primitive nastiness"by "Torn Halves"? what the fuck is that suppose to mean? there is no primitive or modern. leave the academic, racist categories in the garbage where they belong.

    • Terri Rees

      I think you may have missed the point the author is trying to make. It is the disaffection caused by over consumption and unnattainability that is the driving force. That is the point the author is trying to make, not how it can be dealt with per se.

  • http://tornhalves.blogspot.com Torn Halves

    Yes, inequality, a sense of exclusion and the consumer culture are all to blame. In many cases, though, the problem is not so much that people are excluded from the temples of consumption, rather they feel the vacuity of that consumer culture, and some rather unpleasant primitive nastiness is rushing to fill the vacuum. I am thinking about phenomena like the English Defense League. There are desires there for patriotism, a sense of engagement, a sense of sacrifice, a longing to have something to fight for – to literally fight for. I get the impression that EDL people are not great shoppers.

    • Joe Blow

      "There are desires there for patriotism, a sense of engagement, a sense of sacrifice, a longing to have something to fight for"

      When looters are burning your neighborhood, there's more than a desire for a sense of engagement. There's a desire to keep your over-the-storefront apartment from being burned. This may not gel well with your theoretical perspective, but even the EDL blokes are real people in a real world, and fires are real too. They may seem like a theoretical danger from your remove, but you're not in Dalston or Enfield, where people are in the streets not because of desires for patriotism and a sense of sacrifice, but because the police hadn't done enough Sunday or Monday nights to keep looters from burning parts of greater metropolitan London, the capital of a first-world nation. There's a tremendous failure implied in that statement, something a bit more important than whether or not anyone's a "great shopper."

  • Gaia

    Another more then inspiring article from a great author.

    If it wasn't for Bauman my dissertation would have missed all its references. I love the accurate and relevant descriptions of our societies and I get worried when I find myself feeling exactly what is described in the Liquid Modernity.

    I just wanted to say thank you to one of the most inspiring sociologists I've ever read.

    Gaia

    • Joe Blow

      If your dissertation relies on one sociologist for its references, you deserve an acolyte's cotta and cassock, not a doctor's tam and tassel. Learn to work with a range of theoretical apparatuses (preferably data driven) from multiple perspectives and to investigate where some fail to describe reality as well as others. It's especially important at this point, when psychology has finally taken a turn for the empirical and is rejecting psychoanalysis as pseudoscientific, that sociologists subject to criticism the ideological rather than empirical basis of theories grounded in Freudian perspectives: are we going to write books based on stereotypes or on data? Are we social artists (i.e. satirists) out to lambast "consumerism" because we're only comfortable conceiving of today's complex reality as twisted or perverted by outside forces (capitalism from the left, immigration from the right) from some golden ideal of human nature, or are we sociologists who see beyond this golden-age myth and try to describe what is actually going on in society?

      • Jaylor

        Bauman is great and this is the most coherent applied framework for interpreting recent events that I've seen yet. I hope his work will help me finish my dissertation too.

        Desire, perceptions of relative deprivation, and resentment really do help explain why someone with (old) shoes would smash through barriers to steal new ones. The Bush reference is a little dated–what should be added is the corrosive effect of the financial crisis and bank bailouts on the already tenuous logical or ethical underpinnings of value and money. Do hard work and virtue find their just reward? Or is the economy rigged at the highest levels?

        @joeblow — There is plenty of data available for critiquing and investigating consumerism — in fact it's used by advertisers and marketers to stimulate consumer desires and keep capitalism running. And I don't think any analyst in an advanced industrial country seriously claims that capitalism is an "outside force" anymore. Rather, the perversion is our birthright, or at least starts very young. And we all have to shop and wade through advertising, even EDL members.

      • Jack Boot

        Here, here!

        (I think)

  • http://http:www.blavadreams.blogspot.org Mark J. Lovas

    Don't you think it is an error to seek a solution in shopping? And if it is an error, then in what sense am I first and foremost a consumer? Presumably, only in the sense that I am confused and a victim of ideology. But aren't ordinary people smarter than that? At any rate, you have not described my life. And I say that in full awareness of the truth that so-called objects of consumption are often scorned by those who have them in abundance- a point I learned from Ted Honderich.

    • Mark J Lovas

      I have expanded upon and clarified this remark below.

  • http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com Matthew Steeples

    As the cities burn and the thugs rampage, Abramovich's daughter tastelessly boasts about her new £4m "starter home". If ever there were a piece to inflame anger, the Evening Standard's piece on this billionaire brat was it. Here's my response:

    http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/08/rats-a

    My thoughts are with the innocent home owners and shopkeepers and all else who have suffered across the UK.

  • http://www.ecohustler.co.uk EcoHustler

    These riots are connected… (to everything else): http://t.co/s2iocro

  • lele

    Go shopping its fun as its cool to stay home and read a book you bought in a bookshop.

    To shop or not to shop has a second level too: to buy a zygmunt bauman book or not to buy?

  • Ian

    Not impressed I’m afraid.

    A more interesting angle would be to ask why, most of the time, people don’t riot and what’s changed now.

    Poverty, absolute or relative, has existed ever since agrarian societies first created storable food surpluses and gained a hereditary structure of leadership. The second event probably being dependent on the first. Inequality is equally as old; I understand(?) that Britain currently has greater social inequality than at any time since the Edwardian period, but a comment referred to food riots of the 19th century, and the gulf between peasantry and nobility in the medieval period would have been unimaginable.

    So if poverty isn’t necessarily the trigger, and nor is inequality, what’s left? The author’s focus on the emotions aroused by not having possessions so fetishised by society, and the driving impulse being to gratify such a longing, is a huge over simplification. The trigger is in fact the perception of legitimacy. It is insufficient that I don’t have stuff, or that I am conditioned to want the stuff I can’t have, or even that other people do have the stuff I want. The tipping point comes with the perception that not only do the wealthy not deserve their wealth, but firstly that they are lording it over others as if it were the only measure of their worth (and therefore other’s lack of worth); secondly that they generally have not earned it; and thirdly that they are employing deliberate tactics to maintain their relative advantage by engineering social, political and economic conditions whereby their wealth is made and protected not just at the expense of others, but also at the expense of any opportunity others might have to improve their situation.

    Again some historical comparisons: throughout much of history the wealthy and powerful gained and maintained their wealth through direct force or threat thereof. Without the impartial rule of law the powerful could take what they wanted and keep it by preventing others from accumulating wealth, or from becoming powerful enough to present a threat to the established order. Under these circumstances, wealth is a zero-sum game, and in order to become rich, others must be made (and kept) poor. Alternatively, another “justification” for inequality was that the rich and powerful were just better people; in many cases anointed by God, made powerful by direct Divine intervention in the way of pre-revolutionary monarchs. More recently, inequality has been justified by the claim that wealth is just reward for talent and effort, and that the deserving and hard working will in turn be rewarded. This last undermines the resentment of the poor, and is an incredibly powerful force in the USA, if not Britain. Finally, in times of crisis it is possible to temporarily put aside the problem of unfair inequality with a rallying “were all in this together” attitude.

    So do any these possible mechanisms of control still hold sway now? Clearly not, as evidenced by the wave of rioting. Social mobility is at it’s lowest for decades, the global financial crisis has adversely affected many people’s savings/job/pension/education and with it any hope of a better future. At the same time a ruling elite drawn almost exclusively from the nation’s top public schools; the cosy relationships between the political, financial and media sectors, and the rewards dished out to and the favours traded amongst them, clearly demonstrate that concepts of meritocracy and financial probity (not to mention legality) do not apply to those in power.

    The masses have long since been disabused of the myth that the rich and powerful are better people. Merely in the last few years we have seen an MP’s expenses scandal; a major banking crisis triggered by development of financial instruments almost guaranteed directly to harm the poor, and a crisis in the print media which has highlighted the highly dubious nature of relationships between politicians, police and the press.

    Additionally, the rescue of the financial system using taxpayer’s money without any reform of the system or indeed sanction against those that created the crisis. Which lead in turn to a destructive recession which, like all recessions, hit the poorest hardest, and increased social inequality. Whether one assumes that the people in charge were incompetent, corrupt or actually evil; it looks suspiciously as if the western capitalist system has been corrupted to the point that it has returned to a zero-sum game and the best way to make money is to take it from someone else.

    Having undermined any sense of the “deserving” rich; finally destroyed the illusion of opportunity; clearly demonstrated that we aren’t all in this together; and made it impossible, in a world of imbecilic football millionaires, vacuous celebrities and the discovery that a surprising number of the great and good have their hand in the till at every opportunity, to argue that many of the wealthy are in any way worthy people. The only remaining means of justifying the economic subjugation of the majority is through the deployment of force, either physical or legal.

    There have never been sufficient police to enforce authority against the will of the people, and in a democracy there never should be. The police exercise their authority through an accepted sense of shared legitimacy. Recent examples of incitement and entrapment to undermine legitimate protest, kettling and violence to the point of murder towards peaceful demonstrations, the continued racial issues associated with stop and search powers targeting young ethnic minority men, a huge increase in the number of criminal offences, and the exposure of bribe taking, corruption and collusion with the media powers have all served to undermine the legitimacy of the police and the law.

    Without respect for law and the police, without a belief in opportunity, without an expectation that hard work will be rewarded, with an economic and political system which has strayed from democratic capitalism to kleptocracy, in a society where everything has been undermined except the value of money, and with clear evidence that those in power are not just in it for themselves, but are actively colluding against the majority with anti-competitive financial systems, economic exploitation and crony capitalism, is it any wonder that there are riots on the streets?

    It is not that people are poor or disenfranchised and cannot participate in the commoditisation of existence; it is that they are being actively excluded from the only game in town. If there was a coherent political argument behind it there would be revolution on the streets, as it is there disorder and rioting without any political agenda. This has been used as a means to criticise the rioters, but any appreciation of all the above would leave the clear impression that the political game was fixed. In which case it’s hardly surprising that the rioters are refusing to play that game, and have retreated to the only course of action left to them; a (self)destructive nihilism.

    • John D

      An excellent analysis – see also Peter Oborne, Leader, Daily Telegraph, 12.08.2011.

    • Jack

      Agree with John; this is excellent analysis. Do you write for the Guardian? If not, why?

    • Fluffy

      I concur. Having lived in a 'corrupt' African country for several years where the prevalent attitude from Europeans was one of 'Africans can't manage their own countries in the post-colonial era', it has shamed me to realise that in Britain sections of society who are supposedly the guardians of democracy have been swindling the populace shamefully for years, it's just that our politicians/media/police/financial institutions/legal system all colluded to keep it quiet for their mutual benefit. How can we as a nation be taken seriously as any sort of moral advocacy? We need to sort our own house out before we can begin lecturing others. And the rest of the world thinks this too and is mocking us for our hypocrisy.

      I don't think the majority of looters actually analyse the situation to the depth of Ian, but the sense of inequality and lack of opportunity is going to create boredom, despair, frustration and ultimately this took the form of rioting. As someone who works with young people, the images that the media seek to perpetuate are that of 'get rich/famous quick' through either the lottery/a dubious talent for football, fame, singing/modelling or reality TV. Look at the role models of young people. The cult of youth prevails. I accept that teenage rebellion is nothing new, but it has been an increasing problem since young people try to carve out their role, their identity in a society that actually doesn't have much use for them. The fallacy that hard work pays off may have worked in a nation where we actually produced something, but nowadays sadly even good graduates without contacts are out of work. Without experience they can't get a job, without a job….. I actually saw a job advert requiring a cleaner to be 'experienced'. What next? The vast majority of young people actually want a job and have ambition, but the system crushes them either through a lack of opportunity because of lack of 'qualifications' or (if they manage to get to university) through a mountain of debt through tuition fees and student 'loans'.

      It seems we all have our various theories as to why this happened – and we can go on with these rumblings ad infinitum. What I've yet to see (apart from knee jerk reactionary 'bring back conscription' demands – yeah, just you try that with today's 'I know my rights!' children) is a way to try and fix these inequalities. We absolutely need apprenticeships or colleges where young people can learn a trade not waste their time on academic qualifications that they'll never need or use again. Plumbers earn a LOT of money! We will always need mechanics, hairdressers, electricians, builders. The government needs to actively promote the manufacturing industry in this country, if that means pulling out of Europe, well I think if you put that to the voting populace you'd have a bigger turn out than the general election. I've been to Portugal, Greece, Spain and seen how EU funds are spent and have built fantastic motorways and re-generated communities – I've never seen that in this country (please enlighten me if you have!). Sort out the welfare system. It is a poor role model for youngsters to see their parents screwing the system for every penny and unwilling to work when it isn't financially worthwhile. Parents without aspiration = children without aspiration. A lot has been said about positive male role models for young men. Well, if you didn't financially reward young women for having babies without being in a settled, stable relationship maybe you wouldn't have that problem. Reactionary? Of course it is, but when the effect is that these young women have limited parenting skills either because of their immaturity or lack of interest in a child created for financial gain/increased opportunities for housing/a need to create a purpose in society/because 'all my friends have one', you are bound to get problems. That isn't extremist talk, I have actually heard it/witnessed it but I realise a lot of people on this thread are cushioned from that particular reality. But don't let me stop at the more disadvantaged end of the social spectrum. Wealthier parents have to stop providing their children with all the goods/gadgets/gizmos they desire. I've witnessed far too many times children who don't value what they have in this 'throw-away' society. For example, when I spoke to one ten year old boy about throwing his Blackberry across the floor he said, 'If it breaks my mum will get me a new one.' I know when I got back from Africa the advertising in particular in this consumerist society actually made me feel angry. As one other person has said, when people in this world are dying of starvation I'm not going to feel the lack of a flat screen TV.

      Oh well, I am increasingly rambling on. However you may criticise me, at least I am offering some solutions and not just hypotheses or sociological hyperbole.

  • http://www.davefeickert.co.nz Dave Feickert

    Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph is right and I guess my former colleague Eric Illsley former Labour MP for Barnsley will be reflecting on just this from prison where he was sent for stealing from the taxpayer, a sadder end to a long parliamentary career you could not imagine. But the looters among the political classes have generally got away with to spout hypocritical nonsense from their high horse.

  • Mulberry Field

    I try to find a reason for the destruction/looting that is going on, but I can't say I agree with some of the comments that say the youth being unemployed explains why they'd steal a $300 Blackberry or a gigantic TV; (two thing that no one really needs and that I personally could care less whether I have). I think we are treating this situation with kid gloves- we shouldn't be so surprised or in such denial that people are this materialistic. Modern adults resemble 5 year-olds who show off their toys on the playground. I think its human nature to some extent. However to dismiss this situation as not a big deal or anything but disturbing is to overlook our culture's current obsession with superficiality which dominates our daily lives, and the daily lives of all classes of people. I think many people today believe that material things will make them happy but discount the fact that the things which really matter in life are things like love,stability,gratefulness, and nature. I think about all the starving children in the world and I don't feel one bit sorry for myself for not having a $900 TV or a brand new cell phone. But I know a lot of people who do.

  • Mark J Lovas

    I would like to correct or elaborate on my earlier comment: It's not just that ZB fails to describe my psychology–as if i were a uniquely enlightened opponent of ideology. I do not even believe that ZB understands the psychology of ordinary people–in London or anywhere else. They are smarter than he gives them credit for. A more profound account of our out of work shopping habits is found, for example, in the classic essay by Adorno on "leisure time". There he makes the point that our lives are so-structured that while when we officially work we are primarily contributing to the wealth of the already wealth, it is also true that when we are not officially working, we also continue to contribute to the wealth of the already wealthy. Now that is an analysis and also an implicit criticism of the way things are–something I do not hear in easy–indeed trite– remarks about how we are all consumers. It's no good throwing the words "consumer" or "consumption" around as though their meanings were obvious–a point frequently made and expanded upon by the sociologist Michael Dawson.

  • Dave H

    Sorry but I think it misses a point a lot of this was opportunist and being caught up with the inertia of the crowd. There is a small core of serious and organised criminals who, I suspect, are still small timers, as certain areas had no trouble because those in charge of the manor quietly told those likely to kick off that there would be no trouble – or else (think Mr Bridger – in the Italian Job ) It does serious criminals no good to have the order of society (and their quiet but efficient operations) disrupted in tis way.

    But what do we now have. Some amateurs and first timers ending up in the last place they should go – in prisons, where the facilities to train as a real professional criminal are in place, along with the opportunity to network for a future career.

    There were calls for the Army to get involved I do see a role for them, but in training and motivation for the 2000+ individuals arrested to date, for looting and general disorderly behaviour. We have at present a surfeit of MOD accommodation, and a pool of officers and NCO's who have taken early retirement. Put the lost souls in to barracks where they will experience order and get great training (Armed Forces training – spending £ millions on soldiers, pilots and seafarers – sets high standards, after all you don't want the trained personnel to get it wrong in their first engagement with the enemy)

    So an output from this can be well drilled squads – which we then put to work (as their retribution) in cleaning up the UK – not just the limited detail of the wreckage of the riots but everywhere, dumping wasteland, making the whole place cleaner and somewhere people can be proud to live in and making those who deliver proud to be appreciated and proud of what they have delivered.

  • http://lexmeyer.com Lex

    I'm not sure why you titled this "The London Riots…" when you don't even mention the London Riots in the article.

    In all honesty, this feels like only half of an article. What is your point? What is your conclusion? It feels like you are trying to build up to something, then you just stopped writing suddenly with no clear ending.

  • Richard

    This is garbage. It blames the wrong people. The High Street today is a battleground. Retailers:

    (1) use soft systems such as advertising to persuade us to want things, and

    (2) use hard systems such as police to prevent us having things without paying.

    The soft systems are very nasty, and include undemining our freedom of thought and choice by for example persuading us that certain things are necessary in order to be socially accepted by our peers. The battleground created by the retailers stops serving them when one of its two parts fails:

    > if the system of persuasion fails, we don't want

    > if the system of prevention fails, we don't pay

    All that happened was that the second event occurred – the police in Tottenham made a mistake – so people were left with the desires created by the retailers without the restraints the retailers relied on. And now the courts – a component of the retailer's hard systems – are handing out ridiculously severe punishments, and handing them out to the wrong people – to the victims of the retailer's systems.

  • http://www.Torontothebetter.net Tim Burns

    Like Toronto's "G20" riot last year, the London riots are an organic act of complicity between the forces that generate these behaviours and the one that profit by the behavioural consequences, both the corporate chains and the largely corporate-funded media. The kids get rid of some short-term consumerist frustrations, the establishment has its week of orgiastic moral declamation and self-justification (let them learn how to be well-behaved orderly panting consumers, even though others get their pick without breaking windows.) This leaves petty bourgeois shopkeepers as the only ones literally picking up the pieces (albeit just for a week). A perfect modern event, with perpetrators and the "perpetrated" getting their minutes of fame but the only locked up ones, the perpetrated kids, the victims of a consumerism they can only feed, and only intermittently (riotously) feed from.

    Who else noticed that the riots happened a week before the football season opened in England, when kids get their 2 hours of weekly (non?)-riotous release from heroes in universally corporate uniforms?Gives a whole new meaning to the O2 ad-shirts worn by Arsenal players,

  • http://www.cekmagdurlari.com Çek ma?durlar

    This is so evident in our lives and culture, that we have incorporated in to our everyday vocabulary and concepts , without a second thought, ‘shopping therapy’ and ‘shopaholics’ and continue merrily on way to fill yet another basket…