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Disorderly analysis: how might we best understand the riots in August 2011?

Sean Creaney (Centre for Education and Applied Social Sciences, Stockport College, Stockport, UK)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 13 October 2014




The general consensus amongst policy makers regarding the causal explanations for the involvement of young people in the August Riots of 2011 seems to have centred on “mindless criminality” and “thuggery”. These explanations have tended to be quite one dimensional where complexity has been avoided in favour of simplicity. Issues of structural inequality, poverty and social injustice appeared to be negated by political figures in favour of an emphasis on neo-liberal, individualistic explanations and solutions. Understanding that there have been very different interpretations of the riots, where some have come to very different opinions from the same data, the purpose of this paper is to revisit the causes and meanings of the rioting that took place over a five-day period in August 2011. Second by drawing on social democratic perspectives the paper stipulates several factors that if not dealt with may give rise to future rioting.


The paper takes the form of a conceptual analysis. I draw on the work of a number of key academics and commentators to enrich the analysis.


Within the paper it is argued that the policies that emanate from neo-liberal political ideologies have impacted disproportionately on working class children and young people. More specifically the paper finds that problems experienced are deemed to be the responsibility of the individual, side-lining the influence of ecological and socio-economic factors.


In the light of the criticisms of neo-liberalistic approaches, social democratic perspectives are drawn upon in order to consider new ways of approaching the issues facing children and young people within contemporary society. Such perspectives are concerned with addressing structural inequality, poverty and social injustice.



I want to thank Dr Tim Bateman, Professor Roger Smith and Gill Mills for their helpful feedback on an earlier draft.


Creaney, S. (2014), "Disorderly analysis: how might we best understand the riots in August 2011?", Safer Communities, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 171-179.



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