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Showing posts from August, 2011

The middle class of London has had its bluff called

Many years have passed since I last sat in a university sociology seminar, but there’s one thing I can tell you categorically: if people don’t want to be governed, they won’t be. Prisons, for instance, are balanced on a precarious knife edge between order and anarchy. To a large extent, the warders rely on the inmates accepting their authority and taking on the role of the prisoner. In return, the prisoners come to expect certain kinds of behaviour from the guards. It’s an uneasy and difficult relationship, but 99% of the time, it gets played out satisfactorily. When the delicate balancing act collapses, we get to hear about it, because it usually results in violence and disorder.

A feature of any riot is that the accepted norms have broken down. Historically, people have often protested at brutality and oppression and the outbreak of violence and lawlessness symbolises to the authorities that they will no longer accept the status quo. If we take the Brixton riots of 1981, for example…