In a blog post for Labour List, Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, describes the riots as a catastrophe; the political consequences of which may be felt for a long time to come.
Jones fears that the growing backlash against rioters may be indicative of an impending swing to the right. With public mood supportive of an authoritarian response to those involved, and discourse surrounding the debate one of prejudicial and divisive generalisation, it seems that right-wing attitudes are primed to take hold across Britain. As Jones writes:
My real fear is that we have just witnessed another crucial stage in the political ascendancy of the right. When asked how he would cure what he described as a "sickness", one of David Cameron's key suggestions was "a welfare state that doesn't reward idleness". And so begins an attempt to link the actions of a few with benefit claimants as a whole.
Although cautious of the fact that any single, unified explanation for this civil unrest is unlikely to be forthcoming, Hind urges that we cannot treat recent events as mere 'mindless' violence, devoid of political or social meaning.
[..]broadly, any breakdown of civil order is inescapably political. Quite large numbers of mostly young people have decided that, on balance, they want to take to the streets and attack the forces of law and order, damage property or steal goods. Their motives may differ - they are bound to differ. But their actions can only be understood adequately in political terms.
Hind notes that although the rioting may take on the guise of political meaning through the opportunism of politicians and commentators; root causes are at risk of being ignored in the sensationalist media reporting and political point-scoring that will undoubtedly emerge in the aftermath of the unrest.
Highlighting the high rates of youth unemployment, economic inequality, and cuts to youth services, the article draws attention to the deeper meaning of the riots. Speaking of these issues, Hind writes:
All this is the consequence of decisions made by governments and there is little hope of rapid improvement. The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious. They should have known that their policies would lead to disaster. They didn't know. Who then is more mindless?
[...]Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful.
Vist Al Jazeera to read the full article.
Visit Mother Jones for a basic summary of the causes and effects of the rioting, including a reference to Dan Hind's Al Jazeera piece.
The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark's historical account of The Situationist International, has been recently reviewed by David Winters for Bookslut. Describing the book, he writes:
[T]his is no ordinary history. Instead, "it's a question of retrieving a past specific to the demands of the present." The Beach Beneath the Street rereads that past in a way that prefers not to smooth out its messier edges, refuses to reify (to pick up the jargon) what made it radical, what still makes it relevant.
Wark's title has also been the subject of an editorial piece at Mute Magazine, a piece in which Christopher Collier describes The Beach Beneath the Streets as a "beautifully written, exciting and broad study," - and a "sexy book for a sexy movement."
Throughout the text Wark deftly weaves a sustained engagement with the themes of situation, potlatch, détournement and dérive across an array of semi-biographical accounts of the main actors[...] In this Wark achieves something not to be under-estimated, producing a coherent and yet inherently pluralist work on the legacy of the SI and particularly their less well-known predecessors the Letterist International.
In addition, Mackenzie Wark has spoken at length about The Beach... on the ABC Night Air radio show. Discussing his thougts on the Situationist movement, his conversation with presenter Brent Clough touches on the development of the movement, as well its relation to Marxism, existentialism, psychogeography, and utopian thinking.
Lastly, 3:AM Magazine has run a fascinating interview with Wark, in he discusses with David Winters some of the topics covered in the book, and how they informed the style utilised in its writing. Speaking about his approach to writing, Wark says:
I wanted something that would give a sense of the immediacy of ideas to everyday life, and of the role that different forms of social interaction play in producing this self-critical everyday life. This I think produces that effect of a ‘derailment' or detour away from received ideas about the whole thing. At the same time, I want it to be seductive, to be a playful, pleasurable read. Certain kinds of sentence can produce that effect. As to which, and how to write them, well, that's a trade secret!
Owen Jones, author of Chavs: Demonization of the Working Class, has been nominated for Left Foot Forward's Most Influential Left-Wing Thinker of 2010/2011, acknowledging his impressive contribution in bringing issues of inequality back into the debate surrounding the future of the Left.
Owen has intelligently and articulately argued the case that New Labour failed to address the politics of inequality, using the debate around the word ‘chav' to illustrate how modern Britain continues to be led by its attitudes and responses to class.
Further praising Jones' impact on the political discourse in the last year, Olly Parker and Natan Doron of the Fabian Society noted his ability to present progressive and honest viewpoints without alienating the more moderate audiences he often speaks to in his TV and media work.
[...] Owen has often managed to argue a traditional hard-left point of view without coming across as completely mad. The media love to drop your archetypal "mad lefty" - or indeed "mad right-winger" - into TV debates for the sake of entertainment. Owen has not played up to this but has instead sensibly made arguments that the public can understand and relate to.
Visit Left Foot Forward to read the full article. The shortlist for nominations is announced on Monday 12th September, and the poll closes on Friday 7th October, so don't forget to vote!
Does the predominance of unpaid internships offered to school and university leavers infantilise a generation of young adults? Does the increase in such roles contribute to the phenomenon of 'extended adolescence' - the growing trend of adults abstaining from settling down in a traditional sense, and living lives as perpetual teenagers?
Exploring these issues in the latest Psychologies magazine, Decca Aitkenhead asks the author of Intern Nation, Ross Perlin, his views on the social impact of the growing culture of exploitative internships.
"Internships in the traditional sense used to be something you would do in your Summer holidays while at school, but now they do them after they graduate and well into their twenties. And a third to half of all internships are unpaid, and the rest are not well paid."
Perlin goes on to concur with the sentiments expressed by Aitkenhead, and thinks that the increased use of interns as cheap labour providers can have a pronounced psychological impact.
..it's one of the factors that leads to this prolonged adolescence. I think we can consider it infantilising, because it means you cannot move into the stake-holder role in society that's traditionally been thought of as adulthood.
The article will appear in the September 2011 issue of Psychologies magazine (not yet available online).