This paper explores the thermodynamic property ‘entropy’ as a metaphor for aesthetics and politics, law and resistance in the case of the Summer Riots 2011. The aim of the paper is to use the framework and structure of entropy to demonstrate a political aesthetics of property. This shall be done by firstly linking entropy with aesthetic concepts of order, disorder, symmetry and equilibrium. Works on complex adaptive systems to account for collective behaviour, combined with Benjaminian and Adornian accounts of the commodity, shall be used alongside the relevance of crowd theory in explaining not the riots themselves but the sentencing of collectivity in the case of R v Blackshaw & Others  EWCA Crim 2312. Following Rancière and the arts and crafts movement, utility and beauty, the breaking down of the divisions of art, life, philosophy and science are summarised as the lesson of entropy for law. This re-visiting of the Summer Riots 2011 hopes to re-evaluate the sentencing procedures in light of ‘Riot-Related Offending’ through an aesthetic politics of collectivity, property and commodity.
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It should at this juncture be noted that there are critiques of entropy that emanate from the educational origins, the supposedly universal acceptance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and the risks there are of applying a systemic and mechanistic account of organisms and structures to human life. Most biological and social systems are open systems, therefore according to Toffler, trying to understand them in mechanistic terms without understanding the role of complexity and uncertainty, is doomed to failure (Toffler in Prigogine, 1984: xv). Gal-Or also seeks to question the fundamental understanding of entropy and the origin of the irreversibility of nature, and seeks just to speak of energy dissipation and not entropy itself (Gal-Or 1970).
It is far less likely, in fact almost infinitely unlikely that a cliff should turn the powers of erosion on its head, and gather boulders and rocks from the sea to re-touch its coastline silhouette. It is highly probable that erosion will cause a cliff to lose its order through the interaction with the order of the elements, forcing materials and rocks to fall and diminish the cliff. This is the irreversibility of time. For Isaac Newton, time was reversible; however, given the shift from dynamics to thermodynamics, what makes there a past and a present in systems is an acknowledgement to randomness and uncertainty.
The experience of being in love, is diverted from its original sexual drives and reconstituted as ‘identification’, ‘…the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person’ (Freud 1922, p. 46). In the case of encountering strangers, which is a common feature of the crowd phenomena, this unconscious love is manifested as a form of narcissism. However, in the case of a group situation, this narcissism is suspended and transformed into a tie with the others of the group. In the case of the forming components of identification, when the narcissistic ‘ego ideal’ is represented through the presence of the other members of the crowd, this is where, according to Freud, the ego introjects the object (group bond) onto itself. Therefore, ‘the object can be put in place of the ego ideal’ (Freud 1922, p. 47), constituting ‘…a primary group of this kind [a]s a number of individuals who have put one and the same object in place of their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego’ (Laclau 2005, p. 56).
This refers to Section 63 regarding powers to remove persons attending or preparing for a rave, a gathering on land in the open air. Subsection (1A) (a) refers to a gathering on land of 20 or more persons who are trespassing on the land, thus allowing the authorities to intervene based upon numbers.
See Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill (2012) which has received Royal Assent and when in force will make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence.
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Finchett-Maddock, L. Seeing Red: Entropy, Property, and Resistance in the Summer Riots 2011. Law Critique 23, 199–217 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10978-012-9111-z
- Riot-related offending
- Summer Riots 2011