UK riots: 4 fragments of wisdom

The leafy part of south-west London where this blog is often written has not yet been touched by rioting. But of course I’ve been watching the news, the tweets and reading the commentary.

What emerges most plainly from the coverage so far is bafflement. Journalists and wintnesses with memories long enough to recall past rioting in the UK (it’s not completely unprecedented) can see that this isn’t like riots of the past. But they still can’t quite grasp or label it.

Here are four pieces from different angles, all published in the last 24 hours which seem to me to get closest to doing so and to capture some of the sense, cause and effect of what’s happening on (some of) the streets of the capital.

  • This analysis from the US by George Friedman isn’t strictly about the UK at all and American geopolitical analysts might not be the most obvious source of explanation for why people are trashing hairdressing salons in Ealing. But Friedman analyses the political economy of the global economic meltdown and its local political effects, specifically a crisis of legitimacy for elites all over the world.
  • This reportage from The Guardian by reporter Paul Lewis and social analyst James Harkin looks underneath the default assumption that the rioters and looters are all poor kids from poor areas.
  • Graeme Archer is a community activist in Hackney: these were his impressions the other evening.
  • Paul Mason of BBC Newsnight has a long-standing interest in the roots of disturbances all over the globe. This analysis, as he says, is a work in progress – but interesting all the same, particularly for the stress on “prospectless graduates”.

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1 comment

  1. Certainly must-reads esp the overview Friedman article. I would add:
    Zoe Williams
    John Naughton
    Mary Riddell
    Even from here in Delhi it looks grim, and I wonder how long it will be before the big racist groups will start to move in earnest under cover of the general chaos. It would be good to hear more about the the looters/rioters/themselves.