Monday, 15 August 2011

Capital challenges: London riots

Last week riots in London have revealed the sheer scale of degradation and violence in the capital of modern global capitalism. The events that left streets of London (and other major British cities) looted and burnt and minds of people struggling to comprehend the scale of divergence in the British society have brought to surface the social dimension of economic decline that lies much deeper than indicators of unemployment, property value and average income.

It would be simplistic to attribute the violence and anti-social behavior among the groups of (mostly) young people who were crashing properties and livelihoods of people to post-2008 troubles of British economy. The causes of these phenomena are much deeper and have decades of history in the city with the most striking socio-economic contrasts. However it would be wrong to completely ignore the link between the global economic crisis and crisis in moral and aspirations among young Britons.

It was not that long ago when we've learned from Ian Gordon how London 'get away with it', how it performed much better than was anticipated in the wake of the global financial crisis. However today we are witnessing how the crisis is 'catching up' with relaxed City residents, prudent Government and disenchanted society. We can see a much deeper disillusionment and despair among people who have no jobs, no skills, no aspirations combined with quite costly demands fueled by modern consumerism culture. There is also visible anger of young people over the disappearing chances of "climbing the ladder" comparing to those of their parents and grandparents.

It is yet another aspect of the capital cities development in the aftermath of global economic crisis which is relevant to the interests of our network. If you are keen to read more in-depth analysis of London/British cities riots it's worth looking at interesting piece by Henry Overman from SERC, or Simon Jenkins from Guardian who is putting riots in the context of over-centralised British governance system.

London calamities are only one episode in the chain of global protests against the bitter consequences of the global crisis; lost jobs, cut spending, diminishing social standards, rising taxes and fees. Athens, Madrid, Reykjavik, Dublin and many other cities have seen the crowds of unhappy citizens marching central streets (though admittedly none of those were as chaotic and senseless as British riots).

Forthcoming seminar of our research network in Warsaw "Crisis and cities: a dual world of capital cities" will have some interesting insights into recent difficulties of Tel Aviv, Paris, Budapest, Kyiv and other capitals. If you have cases to share or analysis to offer on the causes of public disillusionment in capital cities and how it can be tackled, do write to us and we'll be happy to publish them on this blog.

You can still register for the forthcoming seminar in Warsaw on 23 September (read call for papers here) - just write to Maciej Smetkowski at EUROREG.

Hope to see you soon!

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