Just Sociology

The Complex Causes and Theoretical Perspectives Behind the London Riots

The London riots of August 2011 are widely regarded as one of the most significant incidents of civil unrest in recent British history. The disturbances, which lasted several days, involved widespread rioting, looting, and arson across various towns and cities in England, including Tottenham, where the unrest began.

Despite the fact that the riots occurred almost ten years ago, they continue to be the subject of ongoing debate and inquiry, both in academic circles and in the wider public sphere. This article will explore several complex theories relating to the London riots, including the historical and political context, media reporting and bias, actual evidence on causes, and sociological and criminological perspectives.

Background/Context

The London riots of August 2011 were precipitated by the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old man named Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham, North London. The killing, which took place on August 4, 2011, set off a wave of violent protests and demonstrations that quickly escalated into full-blown rioting in the days that followed.

The violence quickly spread to other cities and towns across England, with incidents of looting, arson, and violent clashes between rioters and police taking place in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and other urban centers. The riots caused significant damage to businesses and infrastructure, and resulted in five deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Media Reporting/Bias

One of the most contentious issues surrounding the London riots of 2011 was the way in which they were reported by the mainstream media. Some critics accused the media of sensationalizing the events and perpetuating negative stereotypes around the rioters, particularly in the conservative press.

For example, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail blamed the riots on a culture of entitlement and claimed that they were caused by “feral children” and “welfare dependency”. Similarly, some politicians and commentators on the New Right argued that the riots were the result of a breakdown in traditional values and social order, and blamed single mothers and the welfare state for the unrest.

Actual Evidence on Causes

Despite the media hype and political rhetoric surrounding the London riots, researchers and academics have attempted to provide a more nuanced and evidence-based understanding of the causes of the unrest. For example, the Reading the Riots study conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) surveyed hundreds of rioters and provided insights into their motivations and backgrounds.

The study found that the majority of those involved in the riots were young (under 25), male, and from disadvantaged communities. Many were also involved in gangs or had previous criminal convictions.

Factors such as policing, government policy, and unemployment were also identified as significant factors contributing to the unrest, as were issues related to race and ethnicity, criminal justice, and poverty. Sociological/Criminological Perspectives

Several different sociological and criminological perspectives have been applied to the study of the London riots, each with its own unique insights and limitations.

For example, functionalist perspectives view society as a complex system of interrelated parts, and argue that the riots can be explained by a breakdown in social order and the failure of social institutions. By contrast, bonds of attachment theory suggests that the riots were caused by a lack of individual ties and connections to mainstream society, leading to feelings of disaffection and alienation.

Consensus subcultural theory proposes that the riots were the result of a distinct counter-cultural subgroup that rejected mainstream values and norms.

Traditional Marxism views the unrest as a manifestation of class conflict and the oppression of the working class by the ruling elite.

Interactionists focus on the role of individual agency and meaning-making in the riots, while right and left realists offer opposing views on the best ways to address the underlying social and political issues that contributed to the unrest.

Research Findings on the London Riots

Characteristics of the Rioters

Despite the heterogeneous nature of the London riots, researchers have identified several common characteristics of those involved in the unrest. For example, many of the rioters were young males, many of whom were either unemployed or in low-paid, precarious work.

Many also had prior criminal convictions or were involved in gangs or other forms of criminal activity. Race and ethnicity were also found to be significant factors, with those from minority ethnic backgrounds disproportionately represented among the rioters.

Additionally, the role of social media in facilitating and coordinating the riots was noted, with many of the participants using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to organize and communicate.

Main Causes of the Riots

Research into the causes of the London riots has identified several key factors that contributed to the unrest. One of the most significant of these was poverty, with many of the rioters coming from deprived communities with high levels of unemployment and economic insecurity.

Police tactics and behavior were also identified as a significant factor, with many riots breaking out in response to incidents of alleged police brutality or racial profiling. Additionally, government policies such as cuts to public services and welfare spending were seen as exacerbating underlying social tensions and inequalities.

The killing of Mark Duggan by police was also a key trigger for the riots, with many seeing the incident as an example of systemic racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system.

Conclusion

The London riots of August 2011 were a complex and multifaceted event that defies easy explanation. However, by examining the available evidence and insights from various theoretical perspectives, we can begin to develop a more nuanced understanding of the underlying factors that contributed to the unrest.

These include issues related to poverty, policing, government policy, race and ethnicity, and social exclusion, among others. By acknowledging and addressing these underlying issues, we can hopefully prevent similar incidents of unrest and social upheaval in the future.

Perspectives on Crime and Deviance

Functionalism

Functionalism is a theoretical perspective that views society as a complex system of interrelated parts that function together to maintain social order and stability. From a functionalist perspective, crime and deviance can actually serve a positive function in society, by acting as a sort of safety valve that allows individuals to release feelings of frustration or aggression in a controlled, socially acceptable manner.

However, violence or inter-gang violence can disrupt this social order and put society at risk.

Bonds of Attachment Theory

Bonds of Attachment theory is a perspective that focuses on the informal agencies of control that help to prevent criminal behavior. This theory posits that individuals who have strong bonds to mainstream society, such as through family and community connections, are less likely to engage in criminal behavior.

By contrast, individuals who lack these bonds are more likely to feel disconnected and alienated from mainstream society, which can lead to criminal activity. This theory highlights the importance of strong family ties and positive parenting practices in deterring deviance.

Consensus Subcultural Theory

Consensus subcultural theory is a perspective that suggests that deviance can emerge as a result of a subculture that develops within mainstream society. For example, youth gangs can be seen as a subculture within mainstream society that rejects the dominant values and norms, and instead identifies with a distinct set of subcultural values around status, respect, and violence.

This theory argues that subcultures can develop under conditions of frustration, such as those resulting from limited opportunities for social mobility, which can lead to the development of alternative structures of status and power.

Traditional Marxism

Traditional Marxism is a theoretical perspective that views crime and deviance as a direct result of the capitalist economic system. According to this perspective, inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power within capitalist societies create a situation in which some individuals are left without adequate access to resources, and are therefore more likely to resort to criminal activity.

The criminal justice system is seen as a means of controlling and punishing those who do not conform to social norms, particularly those who threaten the interests of the ruling elites.

Interactionists

Interactionists are a theoretical perspective that emphasizes the role of individual agency and meaning-making in the production of crime and deviance. According to this perspective, individuals engage in criminal activity as a result of the meanings that they attach to certain actions or behaviors, rather than as a function of objective social or economic conditions.

Interactionists view crime as a social construct that is shaped by the interactions between individuals and society, rather than as a fixed, objective reality.

Right Realists

Right realism is a theoretical perspective that emphasizes the importance of social control in preventing crime and deviance. According to this perspective, crime is a result of the breakdown of social order, and occurs when weak communities do not have sufficient resources or social structures to maintain law and order.

Right realists argue that the best way to prevent crime is to increase social control, through measures such as increasing policing, promoting toughness on crime, and reducing social welfare spending.

Left-Realism

Left realism is a theoretical perspective that emphasizes the role of marginalization and relative deprivation in the production of crime and deviance. According to this perspective, individuals who feel marginalized or excluded from mainstream society are more likely to engage in criminal activity as a way of expressing their frustration or anger.

Left realists argue that the most effective way to reduce crime is to address the underlying social and economic issues that contribute to marginalization and deprivation, such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Guardian research conducted following the London Riots supports this perspective.

Post-modernism

Post-modernism is a theoretical perspective that focuses on the changes in contemporary society that have impacted upon the production of crime and deviance. According to this perspective, the rise of consumer culture, changing definitions of self-identity and the desire for excitement can lead to youth engaging in wide-ranging forms of vandalism.

Post-modernists criticise traditional policing strategies, as they argue that the police are challenged by new forms of crime that do not fit into traditional categories.

Updated Research Findings

Significant Predictor of Rioting

Recent research has continued to explore the factors that contributed to the London riots of 2011. One notable finding is that deprivation continues to be a significant predictor of rioting, with individuals who live in areas with higher levels of poverty and economic insecurity more likely to participate in outbreaks of unrest.

This research backs up existing theories, such as left realism and traditional Marxism.

Correlation with Stop and Searches

Another interesting finding from recent research relates to the correlation between police stop and search practices and rioting. Specifically, some research suggests that communities that feel targeted and unfairly treated by the police are more likely to develop an anti-police identity, which can in turn increase the likelihood of riots occurring.

This research highlights the important role that policing practices and community relations can play in preventing criminal activity and maintaining social order. In conclusion, the London riots of August 2011 were a complex event with underlying factors related to poverty, policing, government policy, and social exclusion, among others.

By exploring diverse theoretical perspectives, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the root causes of crime and deviance. Recent research findings suggest that deprivation and police stop and search practices both play significant roles in outbreaks of unrest.

Overall, the London riots continue to prompt academic inquiry and debate, highlighting the importance of understanding the social, economic, and political forces that shape crime and deviance in society. FAQs:

Q: What were the main factors that contributed to the London riots of 2011?

A: Factors such as poverty, policing, government policy, and social exclusion, among others, all played significant roles in contributing to the unrest. Q: What theoretical perspectives have been applied to the study of crime and deviance in relation to the London riots?

A: Various theoretical perspectives have been applied, including functionalism, bonds of attachment theory, consensus subcultural theory, Marxism, interactionism, right realism, left realism, and post-modernism. Q: What recent research has been conducted on the London riots?

A: Recent research has focused on factors such as deprivation and police stop and search practices and their correlation with outbreaks of unrest. Q: What can be done to prevent outbreaks of unrest in the future?

A: Addressing underlying social and economic issues such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination, as well as improving policing practices and promoting community engagement and social welfare spending, are all potential solutions that can help prevent outbreaks of unrest in the future.

Popular Posts