Advertisement

The Neoliberal State and the 2011 English Riots: A Class Analysis

Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology book series (PSEPS)

Abstract

On 11 August 2011 in Camberwell Green Magistrates Court, a 23-year-old student with no criminal record was sentenced to a prison term of six months for stealing a pack of bottled water worth £3.50. This extraordinarily harsh sentence would normally be cause for widespread denunciation of judicial abuse but, following five nights of fiery rioting across a dozen English cities from 6 to 10 August, the extraordinary turned ordinary for the courts. Whereas the rampant financial criminality at the top of the class structure leading to the near-collapse of the banking system in the autumn of 2008 saw no reactions from criminal justice, even as it sent the UK economy into a tailspin, overturning millions of lives and causing hundreds of billions of pounds in damage, a street fracas at the bottom, estimated to have cost around 300 million pounds, triggered a lightning-fast and brutal response from the penal wing of the state. Those convicted at the Crown Court of robbery (that is, looting, however minor) during these nocturnal disturbances were sentenced with stunning celerity to an average of 29.8 months in prison, nearly treble the usual rate of 10.8 months. Culprits of violent disorder reaped 30.6 months compared with the standard fare of 9.9 months, while those nabbed for theft received sentences nearly twice as long (10.1 months as against 6.6 months). After the riots stopped, the police deployed munificent resources and manifold schemes to track down and round up the looters, mining television footage and web postings, setting up phone lines for snitching, running “Shop A Moron” posters on buses, while politicians promised to cut welfare and housing benefits to the families of the culprits.

Keywords

Social Housing Welfare Reform Structural Violence Street Crime Conservative Party 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Bauman, Z. (2011). The London riots—On consumerism coming home to roost. Social Europe Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from http://www.socialeurope.eu/2011/08/the-london-riots-on-consumerism-coming-home-to-roost/
  2. Bowling, B. (1999). The rise and fall of New York murder: Zero tolerance or crack’s decline? British Journal of Criminology, 39, 531–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cameron, D. (2011). Dad’s gift to me was his optimism. The Sunday Telegraph, June 19.Google Scholar
  4. Connolly, M. (2011) “Do riots show that tensions of earlier decades still smoulder?”, The Guardian, 16th August.Google Scholar
  5. Derbyshire, J. (2010). Poor relations. New Statesman, March 1.Google Scholar
  6. Dikec, M. (2007). Badlands of the republic: Space, politics and urban policy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dorling, D. (2010). New Labour and inequality: Thatcherism continued? Local Economy, 25, 397–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dorling, D. (2012). Inequality and injustice: Some news from Britain. Urban Geography, 33(5), 621–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eddo-Lodge, R. (2011). Twitter didn’t fuel the Tottenham riot. The Guardian. Retrieved August 8, 2011, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/08/tottenham-riot-twitter
  10. Gilroy, P. (2013). 1981 and 2011: From social democratic to neoliberal rioting. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 112(3), 550–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goldberger, A., & Rosenfeld, R. (Eds.). (2009). Understanding crime trends. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gray, N., & Mooney, G. (2011). Glasgow’s new urban frontier: ‘Civilising’ the population of ‘Glasgow East’. CITY, 15(1), 4–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guardian/LSE. (2011). Reading the riots: Investigating England’s summer of disorder. London: LSE.Google Scholar
  14. Hancock, L., & Mooney, G. (2013). ‘Welfare Ghettos’ and the ‘Broken Society’: Territorial stigmatization in the contemporary UK. Housing, Theory and Society, 30(1), 46–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Harcourt, B. (2001). Illusions of order: The false promises of broken windows. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. James, M. (2011). Behind the riots: What young people think about the 2011 summer unrest. The Guardian. Retrieve September 5, 2011, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/05/young-people-2011-summer-unrest
  17. Kalifa, D. (2012). Les Bas-fonds. Histoire d’un Imaginaire. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  18. Leys, C. (1990). Still a question of hegemony. New Left Review, 181, 119–128.Google Scholar
  19. McCann, E., & Ward, K. (Eds.). (2011). Mobile urbanism: City policymaking in the global age. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  20. Meek, J. (2014). Private Island: Why Britain now belongs to someone else. London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  21. Ministry of Justice. (2012). Statistical bulletin on the public disorder of 6th to 9th August 2011. September 2012 update. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistical-bulletin-on-the-public-disorder-of-6th-9th-august-2011--2
  22. Mitchell, K. (2010). Ungoverned space: Global security and the geopolitics of broken windows. Political Geography, 29, 289–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Monbiot, G. (2011). Think of a tank. The Guardian, September 12.Google Scholar
  24. Mooney, G. (2009). The ‘Broken Society’ election: Class hatred and the politics of poverty and place in Glasgow East. Social Policy and Society, 8, 437–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mooney, G., & Hancock, L. (2010). Poverty porn and the broken society. Variant, 39–40, 14–17.Google Scholar
  26. Mooney, G., & Neal, S. (2010). ‘Welfare worries’: Mapping the directions of welfare futures in the contemporary UK. Research, Policy and Planning, 27(3), 141–150.Google Scholar
  27. Mountz, A., & Curran, W. (2009). Policing in drag: Giuliani goes global with illusions of control. Geoforum, 40, 1033–1040.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Murray, C. (1990). The emerging British underclass. London: Institute for Economic Affairs.Google Scholar
  29. Observatorio Metropolitano. (2013). Crisis and revolution in Europe: People of Europe, rise up! Madrid: Traficantes de Suenos.Google Scholar
  30. Peck, J. (2006). Liberating the city: Between New York and New Orleans. Urban Geography, 27, 681–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Peck, J., & Tickell, A. (2007). Conceptualizing neoliberalism, thinking Thatcherism. In H. Leitner, J. Peck, & E. Sheppard (Eds.), Contesting neoliberalism: Urban frontiers (pp. 26–50). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  32. Porter, A., & Riddell, M. (2010). Iain Duncan-Smith: My welfare reforms are Beveridge for today, with a hint of Tebbit. The Daily Telegraph, November 6.Google Scholar
  33. Press Association. (2013). Mark Duggan inquest: Jury told unlawful killing verdict is an option. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/09/mark-duggan-jury-unlawful-killing-verdict-option
  34. Probert, R., & Callan, S. (2010). History and family: Setting the records straight. London: Centre for Social Justice.Google Scholar
  35. Roberts, K. (2014). Food precarity in Britain: A case study from Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. MA (Hons) Dissertation, Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  36. Sennett, R., & Sassen, S. (2011). Cameron’s broken windows. New York Times, August 10.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, N. (2011). Revolutionary ambition in an age of austerity. Retrieved from http://uppingtheanti.org/journal/article/13-neil-smith/
  38. Sotiris, P. (2010). Rebels with a cause: The December 2008 Greek Youth Movement as the condensation of deeper social and political contradictions. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34, 203–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Standing, G. (2011). The Precariat: The new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  40. Sutterluty, F. (2014). The hidden morale of the 2005 French and 2011 English riots. Thesis Eleven, 121(1), 38–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Swanson, K. (2013). Zero tolerance in Latin America: Punitive paradox in urban policy mobilities. Urban Geography, 34(7), 972–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thane, P. (2010). Happy families? History and family policy. London: British Academy.Google Scholar
  43. Tickell, A., & Peck, J. (2003). Making global rules: Globalisation or neoliberalization? In J. Peck & H. W.-C. Yeung (Eds.), Remaking the global economy (pp. 163–181). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Tyler, I. (2013a). The riots of the underclass? Stigmatisation, mediation and the government of poverty and disadvantage in neoliberal Britain. Sociological Research Online, 18(4), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tyler, I. (2013b). Revolting subjects: Social abjection and resistance in neoliberal Britain. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  46. Wacquant, L. (2007). Territorial stigmatization in the age of advanced marginality. Thesis Eleven, 91, 66–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wacquant, L. (2008). Urban outcasts: A comparative sociology of advanced marginality. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  48. Wacquant, L. (2009a). Prisons of poverty (Expanded edition). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  49. Wacquant, L. (2009b). Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wacquant, L. (2010). From ‘public criminology’ to the reflexive sociology of criminological production and consumption. British Journal of Criminology, 51, 438–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Watt, P. (2006). Respectability, roughness and ‘race’: Neighbourhood place images and the making of working-class social distinctions in London. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 30, 776–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Žižek, S. (2011). Shoplifters of the world unite. London Review of Books, August 19.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations