London’s riots: recommended reads

Earlier this month, London was shaken by an outbreak of riots and looting across the poorer areas of the city, which then spread to other areas of England including Manchester and Birmingham. In the wake of the riots, many people tried to make sense of their feelings (and those of the rioters) in a series of written pieces, commissioned by media outlets or more often blogged of their own accord. The pieces I found most useful were by design critic Justin McGuirk (here) and architecture writer Kieran Long (here) – who write for the Guardian and the London Evening Standard respectively. Do read them both for what I think are considered and intelligent responses to events which many of us found very hard to understand.

McGuirk cites Guy Debord’s 1968 essay, The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy, as a touch-point for his analysis of London’s riots – Debord’s piece was written in response to the 1965 riots in Los Angeles. The French theorist raises some provocative points about LA’s rioters. This extract is particularly interesting:

‘The Los Angeles rebellion was a rebellion against the commodity, against the world of the commodity in which worker-consumers are hierarchically subordinated to commodity standards… they are part of a class without a future, a sector of the proletariat unable to believe in any significant chance of integration or promotion. The looting of the Watts district was the most direct realization of the distorted principle: “To each according to their false needs” – needs determined and produced by the economic system which the very act of looting rejects.’

Read Debord’s essay in its entirety here.

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London’s riots: recommended reads