The changing nature of riots in the contemporary metropolis from ideology to identity: lessons from the recent UK riots

Abstract: Whereas past episodes of rioting in UK cities confronted the state authorities with a conscious and collective political problem – either through opposition to job losses or to institutional racism – in the post-political climate today we witness a shift towards individual action driven more by identity than by ideology. The one element that united the otherwise disaggregated rioters across the UK recently was more their taste in expensive sportswear (branded trainers) and electrical goods (plasma television screens) than anything else. Far from being a backlash against the police shooting of a petty, local black criminal in north London, or to the austerity measures introduced by the Liberal-Conservative government to combat the UK state deficit, some commentators suggest that what we now see is the product of a generation brought up on welfare for whom the old allegiances of work, family and community have lost their meaning and who, accordingly, are only able to assert their identity through the expression of their consumer tastes. This article examines what really drove the recent UK riots and explores the twin crises – of authority and of identity that they have exposed.

The Changing Nature of Riots in the Contemporary Metropolis from Ideology to Identity: Lessons from the Recent UK Riots, Journal of Risk Research (Impact Factor 1.027 ISI 2015), Vol. 15, No. 4, pp.347-354, May 2012