The Emergence of a Lumpen-Consumerate: the Aesthetics of Consumption and Violence in the English Riots of 2011
- 620 Downloads
Within hours of the outset of unrest in the August 2011 English Riots, the government asserted that they were the doings of “criminal gangs”. In doing so, government officials and journalistic commentators cited television images of rioting and plundering youths. Although this assertion was subsequently abandoned, it reflected an on-going process: the criminalization of youth in Britain. The recycled images of flames and hooded teenagers came to serve as the proof of youth “gone bad”. This paper explores both the actions supposedly captured in the images depicting the riots and the discourses surrounding the reproduction of those images. It seeks to connect the youth politics of the everyday—especially the problems of being ignored as political subjects—to the formal political structures that rely on youth to be socially unruly on one hand and disciplined consumers on the other. Segments of British youth are cast out, seen as unneeded or unwanted in this disciplinary project and constitute what I call here a “lumpen-consumerate”. The paper concludes with a comparative analysis of the consumer images that both discipline young people and serve as a model for framing the unrest. The paper builds upon Deleuze, Badiou, Bourdieu, Bauman and others in order to examine how spontaneous, uncoordinated action came to be read through mass media spectacle as dismissible and intolerable images of “criminal gangs” to be policed.
KeywordsCollective violence Riots Consumer culture Neo-Liberal capitalism Aesthetics Identity Belonging
- Aldridge, J., Ralphs, R., & Medina, J. (2011). Collateral damage: Territory and policing in an English gang city. In B. Goldson (Ed.), Youth in crisis?: Gangs, territoriality and violence. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Badiou, A. (2012). Philosophy for militants. London: Verso Press.Google Scholar
- Bauman, Z. (2007b). Liquid times: Living in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Bauman, Z. (2007c). Consuming life. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Bauman, Z. (2012). Fuels, sparks and fires: on taking to the streets. Thesis Eleven, No. 109, AprilGoogle Scholar
- Beckford, M. &Gardham D. (2011). ‘Attack’ on teenage girl blamed for start of Tottenham riot. The Telegraph.Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Campbell, C. (2004). I shop therefore I know that I am. In K. Erkstrom & H. Brewmbeck (Eds.), Elusive consumption. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
- Debord, G. (2009). Society of the spectacle. East Sussex: Soul Bay Press. 1967.Google Scholar
- Deleuze, G. (1990) Society of control. L'autre Journal. No. 1, May 1990.Google Scholar
- Deleuze, G. (1992). Postscript on the Societies of control. October, 59 (Winter 1992).Google Scholar
- Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Capitalism and Schizophrenia Vol. II. (trans. and foreword: Massumi, B.). Minneapolis: University of Minnessota Press, Google Scholar
- Fassin, D. (2013). Enforcing order: An ethnography of urban policing. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Hallsworth, S. (2011). Gangland Britain? Relaties, fantasies and industry. In B. Goldson (Ed.), Youth in crisis?: Gangs, territoriality and violence. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2004). Multitude: War and democracy in the age of empire. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Kellner, D. (2011). Media spectacle and insurrection: From Arab Spring to occupy everywhere. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
- Kellner, D. (2012). The dark side of spectacle: terror in Norway and the UK riots. Cultural Politics, 8, 1.Google Scholar
- Laville, S., Lewis, P., & Dodd, V. (2011) Doubts emerge over Duggan shooting as London burns. The Guardian.Google Scholar
- Marx, K. (1852). The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_TheEighteenth_Brumaire.pdf.
- Marx, K. (1852). The Grundrisse, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_Grundrisse.pdf.
- Newburn, T., Topping, A., Ferguson, B., & Taylor, M. (2011) The four-day truce: gangs suspended hostilities during the English riots. The Guardian 6 December 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/dec/06/gang-truce-english-riots.
- Peck, T. (2011). A death at the hands of police—and a vigil that turned to violence. The Independent.Google Scholar
- Peters, M., & Bulut, E. (2011). Cognitive capitalism, education and digital labour. Oxford: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Prasad, R. (2011). The riots were a sort of “revenge’ against the police”. In D. Roberts (Ed.), Reading the riots. London: Guardian Books.Google Scholar
- Rancière, J. (2009a). The emancipated spectator. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Rancière, J. (2009b). The future of the image. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Read, J. (2008). The Age of Cynicism: Deleuze and Guattari on the Political Logic of Contemporary Capitalism. Deleuze and Politics (pp 139–159). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University.Google Scholar
- Schmitt, C. (1963). Theory of the partisan: Immediate commentary on the concept of the political. Berlin: Dunker and Humbolt.Google Scholar
- Topping, A., & Bawdon, F. (2011). ‘It was like Christmas’: A consumerist feast amongst the summer riots. In D. Roberts (Ed.), Reading the riots. London: Guardian Books.Google Scholar
- Whitehead, T. (2011) Dead man Mark Duggan was a known gangster who lived by the gun. The Telegraph.Google Scholar
- Žižek, S. (2009). First as tragedy, then as farce. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Žižek, S. (2011). Shoplifters of the world unite. The London Review of Books, 19 August 2011, http://www.lrb.co.uk/2011/08/19/slavoj-zizek/shoplifters-of-the-world-unite.