Between 6 and 11 August 2011 riots stormed several parts of London and other cities in England. The unprecedented looting and arson began after a protest in London, following the death of Mark Duggan, shot dead by police on the 4th of August. There have been a number of speculations as to what caused the escalation of the disturbances. Debated contributory factors range from socio-economic causes to social media, gang culture and criminal opportunism. However, all the suggested reasons revolve around the dysfunctional system of moral values among youths.
According to an article in The Guardian, the riots in London were the product of an “out-of-control consumerist ethos”. Referring to the report by Tim Morgan, the global head of research at Tullett Prebon, the article suggests that challenging the dominant formula of “I buy, therefore I am” and replacing the material with non-material values is the way to overcome this consumerist obsession. What this means, is that the frustration of being excluded from the league of consumers is the underlying factor for the eruption of hostilities in London. Here is what Zygmunt Bauman writes about the character of the London riots in his article for the Social Europe Journal:
“These are not hunger or bread riots. These are riots of defective and disqualified consumers… The objects of desire, whose absence is most violently resented, are nowadays many and varied – and their numbers, as well as the temptation to have them, grow by the day. And so grows the wrath, humiliation, spite, and grudge aroused by not having them.”
The London riots represent not only the dark side of consumerism, articulated through the raging discontent of what Bauman calls disqualified consumers. They are also symptomatic of the flaws in the wide-spread culture of consumerism, which values objects over people and form over content.