Re-reading the England Riots

A Psychoanalytic Study of the Explanations of the Riots

Master's Thesis 2013 59 Pages

Psychology - Social Psychology



The explanations of what caused the England riots in 2011 are many. Numerous commentators, politicians and reports tried to make sense of the four days in August 2011 that caused widespread disorder in London and other cities. Although there are both insightful and some less insightful descriptions of its causes, the problem this study identifies and addresses is the more or less absence of a politicisation of the riots in the common explanations. Whilst the study asks how they function in order to appear apolitical, the task of examining this is undertaken with psychoanalytic theory. In order to conduct such a study the ideas of Slavoj Žižek are drawn upon to develop a theoretical framework and method. Herein the explanations pointing out criminality, moral decline, dysfunctional families and inequality as the causes are analysed to show what must be suppressed in order to steer the causes away from politics. It is illustrated how the explanations shifts emphasise from collective problems to instead impute them to groups.

Word count: 19 688

Keywords: Psychoanalysis, England riots, Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Lacan, the Other

1 Introduction

On August 4 2011, Mark Duggan, allegedly a drug dealer, is shot dead by police in Tottenham, London. What unfolded was the worst riots in three decades, approximately 15 000 people were involved in rioting, arsons, burglary and looting with the result of five dead and around half a billion pounds worth of damage. 24-hour media coverage did not make it less dramatic. As everyone tried to make sense of what was happening, identify causes; also the media was made into a cause. In fact, it seemed as if anything could be made into a cause. BBC initially referred to the people involves as protesters, which quickly was criticised, this was a riot not protests. While disorder spread in London and to other cities, the tread that runs through the riots was looting of high value consumer goods. A reflection of the consumerism culture or the evidence for why there were no socio-political motives remains an open question.

The problem with pinning down the causes related to the fact that the rioters did not seem to share any background such as race or class and neither did they make any demands. The fatal shooting of a black man by the police was a reminder of the riots in England in the 1980s, but here, everyone seemed to agree this was just the spark. That, however, did not stop Professor David Starkey on BBC’s newsnight from suggesting that the ‘whites had become black’. In the same programme sat Owen Jones, writer of Chavs, a term referring to the underclass. While Professor Starkey’s statement created anger, Jones asks how it has become so widespread and acceptable to demonize the poor in Britain. Among all the explanations of the riots, the major ones seem to involve the less well off. In many ways, these correspond to the Conservatives’ ‘Broken Britain’ narrative, which holds crime, welfare dependence and dysfunctional families as endemic in Britain. Although these are highly political explanations, what strikes me is how the major explanations even so present the causes of and solutions to the riots as apolitical. This is most easily detected in the change of meaning when focus is shifted from protesters to rioters. I hope this brief presentation of the riots has led the reader to sense that the subject matter of this study is not the riots as such but the explanations of them.

1.2 Research Objectives

In relation to the different explanations referred to above, this study will scrutinise how the riots are presented as largely divorced from politics, both in its causes, responses and in their solutions. Put differently, the study seeks to problematise the ways in which the riots have been explained, largely because each report of the riots recognise the same causes. Against this background the study is guided by the following research question: How do the explanations function in order to present an essentially apolitical understanding of the riots?

Crucial in this respect is how this is accomplished and the answer to this question is not obvious. As a result, the objective of this thesis remains not only with the explanations of the riots but also in the creation of a theoretical framework wherein these can be analysed. The aim of this study is thus twofold. First, it seeks to develop a theoretical framework, second, apply this on the four major explanations of the riots.

While the study takes as its task to examine how the explanations circle around an apolitical kernel, I do so by a turn to psychoanalytic theory. I do so simply because the theory and method provides a rich vocabulary of addressing today’s post-political situation and offer a method for problematising the ways problems are posed. The psychoanalytic vocabulary applied in this study is never far away from a discourse analysis. However, in contrast with a solely linguistic approach, psychoanalysis emerges with a theorisation of both affect and the linguistic, enabling a thicker theorisation of society. While this has been shown in numerous articles and books, to the best of my knowledge there is little concrete analysis of subject matter. Therefore, I hope to show how psychoanalytic theory can cast new light on contemporary phenomenon. There is, however, no ready-made psychoanalytic socio-political theory, only parts presented in the works of Slavoj Žižek. His concepts stems from Jacques Lacan, who, in his ‘return to Freud’ read Freud through linguistics. I myself had to return to Lacan in order to thoroughly understand Žižek.

Although the explanations of the riots emphasise real problems in the British society, I intend to show how the basic function of the explanations obscures their political dimension. By function, I refer to two senses of the term. Firstly, the study explore what and how political dimensions of the explanations are disavowed, thereafter I delineate how the explanations shift the focus from political explanations to apolitical explanations.

1.3 Disposition

To take issue with the explanations of the riots the study is organised in the following way. The next section presents a brief overview of the post- structural developments in the social sciences. I begin the second chapter by delineating the theoretical framework which informs the study. As stated above, my entrance to psychoanalytic theory was through Žižek and I had to return to its origins in Lacan in order to understand him properly. After a brief review of my understanding of Lacan, the chapter turn to describe and develop the concepts utilised in this study. This accounts for an extensive part of the study. In the third chapter the theoretical frameworks’ possibilities and limitations are considered before turning to how data was collected. At the end of that chapter, I will have bridged the theoretical framework with the method. The fourth chapter presents the explanations of the riots in the framework.

1.4 Literature Review

Given the central role of the psychoanalytic framework in this study I believe it is crucial to situate it in relation with other critical approaches. In this brief and selective overview, I am however forced to exclude prominent intellectuals such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, but I hope it sets the contour of this study.

Where, then, should a Lacanian psychoanalytic approach to socio- political analysis be located in the field of critical theory? The question should perhaps be reformulated simply because there is no coherent Lacanian theory for social analysis. While this is dealt with by developing a theoretical framework which relies heavily on Žižek’s ideas, this framework is at once unavoidably located in relation to broader themes in the social sciences. I want, however, to begin by present the motivation of the theoretical approach to the riots. In the beginnings of 1990s, David Campbell in his Writing Security (1998) presented an analysis of the foreign policy of the United States. In it, he developed the idea that ‘the other’, which has taken many forms throughout the years, is constitutive of the very identity of the United States. Put simply, foreign policy, he argued, is not the response to a threat, but the condition of the identity of ‘us’. In psychoanalytic theory I find a similar theorisation, yet a much more profound understanding of the conditions of ‘them’ contra ‘us’. Campbell thus asserted the constitutive character of language. This is also known as performativity, a concept perhaps most commonly associated with Judith Butler. In short, it refers to that language has the ability to create what it names. An illustrative example is immigration policies, which, on the one hand defines immigrants, on the other hand, constructs a sense of ‘us’.

No longer, then, can language be defined as simply referring to what it represent. This is part of what commonly is termed the linguistic turn in the social sciences, which dates back to Ferdinand de Saussure who, in the twentieth century, argued that the meaning of a word is given due to its difference from other words, not what it refers to. This, however, does not mean objects cease to exist outside of language; rather, what such approach holds is that meaning of objects is only available through language (Laclau & Mouffe 2008:161). These ideas are commonly gathered under the heading post-modern theory or post-structuralism. Although the terms envelop a diverse group of 20th- and 21st century intellectuals they share, I believe, some characteristics. Anti-essentialism is such a position. It stresses that the social world and thus identities are not pre-given or fixed (Jørgensen & Phillips 2010:5). This has been especially valuable for the analysis of identities, dismantling identities such as gender and race. Such theorisation cannot proceed from a binary logic; I am this because I am not that. Rather it stress that identities can be constituted through an unlimited number of other identities (Butler 2000:30-31). It has thus made possible the politicisation of disadvantaged groups.

Yet, the impact of the linguistic turn is not bound to the theorisation of subjects. A reference point is Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s 1985 book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (2008). Since identities always can be constructed differently, meaning is in constant negotiation among people. Therefore, they argued, this logic applies to society at large. This means that systems of meaning, discourses, never can fix the meaning of, say democracy. In effect, then, even if everyone agreed on what democracy is and how it should function there is always a possibility to create a different meaning. The failure of finally settle the meaning of for instance democracy leads them to assert that society is essentially characterised by antagonism. However, the correlation between theory and politics can also be seen as problematic. The development of these anti-foundationalist perspectives can be understood in relation to the decline in socialism. Two catchphrases here is Jean-Francois Lyotard’s ‘the end of great narratives’ which corresponds to the later ‘the end of history’, which Francis Fukuyama proposed by the fall of communism with liberal-democracy and capitalism as the system remaining (Boucher & Sharpe 2010:32; Malpas 2006:27-28). Now, what can this have to do with this study?

The position of Žižek and those working in the Žižekian tradition and also Laclau and Mouffe is that precisely because today is presented as a post-ideological age analysis of this seemingly neutral order is more needed than ever. Versions of Fredric Jameson’s question ‘why is it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’ guides much of the analysis of those working in the Žižekian tradition. Any strict distinction between economy, society and theory is in this view not possible.

2 Theoretical Approach

The writings of Jacques Lacan, born in 1901, died in 1981, have been described as thick, dense, theoretical on the verge of being incomprehensible. As his theories draws on ideas from among other things mathematics and mythology, the best way to describe him is perhaps with his reading of Freud through linguistics. It was, however, not until Žižek developed his Lacanian framework illustrated with examples from popular culture and politics, ranging from toilet design to anti- Semitism, Lacan was made accessible. And it is Žižek’s Lacan that is of interest here. Yet, even the reader without knowledge in psychoanalysis probably associates it with therapy. The initial objection is therefore how a theory of individual processes can be transferred to society. In fact, psychoanalysis never made a strict distinction. To illustrate this, one of Lacan’s more famous statements ‘the unconscious is structured like a language’ means the language people use and the discourses people exist in flows through people both consciously and unconsciously. This is in many ways different from the Cartesian subject, ‘I think therefore I am’, and the autonomous rational individual. Another way of putting this is with neurobiology. Today depression, for instance, is explained by processes in the brain but what such perspective fails to acknowledge is that its causes and its meaning are always social and have social effects (Žižek 2006b:175). In sum, the focus of psychoanalysis involves not the subject but its place in society. In Lacanian terms, the social world is referred to as the Symbolic. When this study use the Symbolic it names what usually is though off as reality, the world of language and culture, of subjects and discourses, in short, the network of social relations (Žižek 2006a:9).

2.1 The Subject in Lacanian Psychoanalysis

To comprehend the concepts and thinking below, to grasp the foundations of the theoretical framework, I would like to begin in an end which might seem far-fetched: the infant in psychoanalysis. The chapter starts with this because it is in the development from infant to subject that processes vital to the theoretical framework takes place. By outlining the child’s development, the aim is not to recite Lacan but to bridge Lacan’s theorisation of the subject to a theorisation of society. Imperative of both approaches is desire and language.

The child is born into the world because of someone’s desire; the vast amount of reasons for bringing a child into the world is as such not important (Fink 1997:50). The same is also true of language. A central locus for the child is at birth reserved in language; the child is born into language, a language that is not of his or her own making (Fink 1997:5). These arguments treat desire and language as something beyond oneself, they are so to speak the other’s desire and the other’s language. In terms of language, what is said will always be interpreted by others (Fink 1999:235). This is both the gift and curse of language. As speaking subjects people are accustomed to say ‘that’s not what I meant’, implying that interpretation remains crucial and that people do not fully master the language they speak (Fink 1999:43). One example is indicative of this. Scholars at London School of Economics and journalists at the Guardian conducted interviews with people involved in the riots to gain understanding of its causes. The implication of such research is captured in the feeling that oneself or others sometimes speak merely as transmitters of a discourse.

In terms of desire, for the infant to become a subject a crucial process need to take place. In general, the mother will have other desires independently of the child, and it is the realisation of this, when the child comes to understand it is not the sole desire of the mother, that it is possible to speak of subjectivity. There is no notion of self and other before this.

Being a crucial stage, the presumed unity between child and mother is lost with the entry into language and with the advent of desire. It is this unity, the mother-child symbiosis, which the father interrupts. This is what Freud called the Oedipus complex. It is referred to as the ‘Name of the father’ by Lacan, but in this study, its metaphorical meaning is the same. As the child recognise that the mother’s desire cannot be satisfied by him or her it comes with the inevitable realisation that one is lacking something (Fink 1997:59). In this sense, the subject will always be rifted by lack because what he or she is missing is something that will never be known. This gives rise to, both in Lacanian psychoanalysis and in Žižek’s social analysis, the question ‘Che Vuoi?’ - ‘what does the other want’. Because the rioters desires cannot be known, at least not with certainty, I will simply theorise this question to be what each explanation asks and tries to answer. On the other hand, this something is for the child presumed to be possessed by the father. The father’s function is therefore merely the name of the entry into the Symbolic, the world of language that is reality, and the birth of desire. It takes the form of a prohibition, prohibiting desire for the mother, in the end banning something which is already always lost. He is thus the third term in the Oedipus triangle. He is the reason the mother’s desire is directed elsewhere, responsible for ending the harmonious unity.

How then does this correspond to this study? I take what above was termed the Oedipus complex to be also the foundation of discourses. It is with the advent of desire and even more important, how desire is structured against an obstacle, that the study can begin to theorise the explanations. Imperative of this study will be to theorise the explanations as the interplay between lack and wholeness. To do so I will introduce the riots.

2.2 The Discursive Oedipus Complex

The example outlined below will show how discourses are more than purely linguistic; it draws attention to what lies in the borderland between what can be put into words and that which cannot - enjoyment and desire. The identity of Englishness, or any discourse for that matter, is not only a source of identification but it also provides people with a sense of enjoyment. There are, however, always inconsistencies in this discourse. The riots of 2011 are one such inconsistency which never would be acknowledged to be a problem internal to the identity. Instead, the riots are given a cause outside of national identification, as something alien to the imaginary of England as seen in the explanations. It is externalised, for example as a problem of black culture or moral decline on parts of Britain. Given that a harmonious identity of Englishness is impossible, that there will always be some failures, the rioter, the welfare recipient or whatever form this takes is not only an obstacle but also necessary to explain the continuously failure of the identity (McMillan 2008:10). An obstacle such as the rioter thus sustains the desire for a complete identity. This is equivalent to the desire for a lost unity in the Oedipus complex. For the subject the never-ending search for completeness is at once impossible because people are internally split, but this void is at the same time necessarily what sustains people as subjects of desire. Whilst the father is how the already impossible wholeness is explained away in the Oedipus complex, the rioter for example fills that function with respect to Englishness. Therefore, most important is not that each explanation is incomplete but that it always appears as if it can be whole, harmonic, or whatever term used to describe the good society (Daly 1999a:224-225). To analyse the explanations of the riots the study proceeds from the understanding that these explanations are driven by desire, constituted by lack and an Other. This is the socio-political meaning of the Oedipus complex, explaining the basic function of any discourse.

I take this understanding to give rise to four problems or characteristics for any discourse. Because these parts form only a small amount of the theoretical complex of Lacan, I will throughout this chapter and the next outline why I apply these.

2.3 Transgression and Law, the Other and Enjoyment

The notion that transgression is dependent on the law and more importantly that the law gives rise to its own transgression is the logic behind the Oedipus complex. For Žižek there is nothing spontaneous in obeying the law, it is a constant battle against ourselves since everyone desire in relation to the law (2006b:90). He suggests that transgressing the law collectively is what holds together a group when for example holding racist prejudices which are forbidden by the written law (ibid.:369). I, however, take this logic to mean that the concept law-transgression theorise how a problem appearing to be opposite or external to something can be internal. This allows the study to look at the relationship between what each explanation presents as the good society and the obstacle to this as interdependent. In other words, law stands for the impossible wholeness and transgression is the metaphor for the necessary obstacle to that wholeness. In the example above Englishness is that wholeness. What stain this imaginary are the causes of the urban riots, riots that cannot be acknowledged to result from the contemporary socio-political situation of England. What I intend to show with this concept is how causes of the riots are internal to Englishness.

Central in this respect is the Other. As a crucial concept in the social sciences, Žižek however uses the term the Other in many different, and sometimes confusing, ways. Here I limit its use to one meaning. The Other can so to speak be ascribed the role of committing the original sin, taking away an desired unity. The paradox involved is, necessarily, that the Other may very well be what sustains desire. In anti-Semitic discourses, the Jew is that Other while the Other in neo-liberal discourse may be a heavy-handed state. Put simply, any one blocking access to wholeness can be positioned as Other. This postulation of an Other always involves an amount of misrecognition. In relation to this study, Žižek would claim that even if the absence of father figures is a cause for the riots, the motivation behind this argument is nevertheless false because the Other is always a post-construction (Žižek 2009:85). The Other can so function as a way to organise a range of problems into a coherent story (Žižek 2008:18). There is, however, no necessity for the Other to be an enemy. I believe that the state, for example, can hold this position. It functions as something people can complain about, blame for its misfortunes, but which nevertheless plays an important role for people. How do these insights help this study forward? Foremost it allows a theorisation of how the explanations function by introducing one or several Others.

It is, however, not enough to theorise the Other merely as an obstacle. In the context of the Oedipus complex, the father is the presumed perpetrator of the lost unity, he is the Other who prohibits or takes away enjoyment. Žižek brought forward the idea that racism always builds on ideas of our and others enjoyment. This came to be known as the ‘theft of enjoyment’ thesis and it is the third concept introduced here. It will not be bound to racism but used here because it allows a theorisation of what gives the explanations substance. Enjoyment, or in its original terminology jouissance, meaning a combination of pleasure and pain, is a major concept in Lacan’s thinking. It is what each and everyone have to give up when the father is introduced in the Oedipus complex. Although enjoyment is a simplification of both the concept and Lacan’s ideas, the best way to explain Žižek’s enjoyment-thesis is to again emphasise the assumption from where this study departed. The driving force of discourses always relates to why enjoyment is inadequate and how this can be fixed (Fink 2004:155). This means all political communities or political discourses explicate a lack of enjoyment and in what this enjoyment consist (Sharpe & Boucher 2010:19). For the purposes of this study the question how enjoyment was lost should also be added (Daly & Žižek 2004:110). Although the concept enjoyment may at first seem out of place in socio-political analysis Mouffe suggests this to be significant in examining the role of affect in politics:

For Žižek, nationalist hatred emerges when another nation is perceived as threatening our enjoyment. It has its origins therefore in the way social groups deal with their lack of enjoyment by attributing it to the presence of an enemy which is ‘stealing’ it. (2005:28)

This is how for example immigrants can be presented as stealing ‘our’ jobs while simultaneously be lacy and living on benefits (Žižek 2006b:300). In this case, the way Others’ seem to enjoy working or how they illicitly enjoy our social security system is what is bothering. The implication of Other’s enjoyment, and closely bound to enjoyment, is envy. Therefore, employment or money is not the concern in the example above, what Žižek proposes is that envy always is envy of enjoyment, of Others’ excessive enjoyment (1997:54).

Before introducing the concept the Real and the last of the four concepts, decline in Symbolic authority, the discussion of lack, wholeness and a variety of other concepts leaves one question open, exactly in what does this wholeness consist in the context of this study? Because there are four explanations of the riots of interest in this study, I theorise this notion of wholeness as enveloping them all. The study proposes Englishness to be that common notion, an open concept that these explanations invest with meaning. Such a concept is by Laclau named an empty signifier because any concept “…which, in a certain political context becomes the signifier of the lack, plays the same role. Politics is possible because the constitutive impossibility of society can only represent itself through the production of empty signifiers” (2003:312). At the level of identification, it is an impossible wholeness because the image of Englishmen never fully overlaps with the subject. It is an ideal image. This is what Lacan meant be alienation in language; there is always a gap between myself and language, between my symbolic role and myself (Fink 1997:52). Yet, there is a more important aspect of the impossibility of Englishness. Following the concept law-transgression the study will treat the riots as internal to, caused by, Englishness rather than the exception they are implied to be. Why, then, not stop there, why use concepts such as the Other and enjoyment? It is precisely because these internal failures are transformed into Others it is possible to show the explanations function (Glynos 2008:681).

2.4 The Real

The Real is the Lacanian name of that which cannot or has not yet been symbolised, put into words and given meaning. This difficult sentence in a way illustrates its meaning because trying to describe something resisting to be put into language would be logically unattainable. Therefore, its existence per se can be challenged since existence depends on language, that is, because meaning and reality is mediated through language (Fink 1997:25). In clinical sessions, the analyst would want the analysand to try to put into words what he or she has been unable to capture in words. The traumatic encounter for a child with something that escapes understanding, something potentially gaining meaning later on in life, is another example of the Real. As such, the Real is not reality stripped of different discourses; rather, cancelling out the Real creates reality (ibid.). However, no discourse can say it all, it always has to exclude something in order to say something.

Another way of describing it is with Fink’s example of physics. Research in physics does not intend to change the Real, but rather bring the unknown into symbolisation (1997:144). Thus, the difference between natural science and social science can be described as a difference in relations with the Real. The focus of psychoanalysis is not so much the event as such but the way it is dealt with, given meaning. Put differently, the issue of this study is not representations of the riots in relation to the riots as such, but representations of the riots and the failure of representation (Glynos 2001a:197). The theorisation of the riots as Real, before given meaning, means it is precisely this failure of representation, impossibility of wholeness, which allows multiple accounts of the riots to exist.

The Real can also be understood as part of the research-problem. In On the Political (2005) Chantal Mouffe argues that an increased centrism in national politics is the cause of symptoms such as far-right parties. This is another example of when the Real erupts in the Symbolic, when consensus characterise politics, political antagonism and alternatives is excluded, pushed into the Real, and returns in the form of for example extremism. If, then, politics is driven by desire the situation described by Mouffe is one where politics lacks passion. The cause of any political ideology and party is a desire constituted by the obstacle, that is, a competing political view. The increased shared views among parties thus kills desire, what in psychoanalysis is called a lack of lack. Here, Žižek makes an important point. In a political landscape of de-politicisation, expert administration and the end of great causes the only way to add passion into politics is through fear (Žižek 2009:34). Given the lack of political causes and solutions of the riots found in the material of this study it is not only my assumption that that can be theorised as Real but also why the focus on the rioting Other is important. Others add passion when political antagonism is lacking.

Having come this far in the theoretical framework, I have argued that the explanations of the riots as well as the notion of Englishness is characterised by lack, an impossibility of what here is referred to as wholeness. What makes this interesting and crucial in the function of the explanations is when impossibility is translated into prohibition; not only does lack create desire, the result must necessarily be that the obstacle also is constitutive of wholeness. What then if this logic does not function so smoothly as described up until Mouffe’s thesis? The concept I believe can account for such a situation is decline in Symbolic authority.

2.5 Symbolic Authority or Generalised Perversion

In order to outline the concept Symbolic Authority I begin by referring to what Lacanian term perversion. In the clinical context perversion entails provocative acts, against conventions or laws. The first thing to note is not the enjoyment the pervert gets from the transgression, which perhaps is what most people associate with a pervert. Instead, the important part refers back to others rather then the pervert him or herself. Lacan theorised it as attempts to bring the law into being, attempts to force an Other to say enough, to draw the line (Fink 1999:181). This means the acts are means towards an end, to re-establish what is allegedly violated. In psychoanalytic terms, it involves a partial failure of the Oedipus complex, that is, it does not function as described above with the law as that which I always take into consideration. Here that law is missing or vague. Against the background of this being an individual diagnoses Žižek has theorised it on the societal level. I will briefly explain what he means by perversion before discussing its value for this study. Žižek uses generalised perversion to characterise contemporary society. Due in large part, he believes this to be the consequence of capitalism and neo- liberalism, rendered visible in most aspects of everyday life. Most easily explained he turns contemporary notions such as individual choice, increased freedom and frictionless politics around to show how it instead of freeing people from traditional forms of authority rather leads to new types of problems. On the other hand, one consequence is for example an increased focus on gender, ethnicity and race (Glynos 2001b:81). But in the larger perspective Glynos says the “… disintegration of traditional forms of authority coincides with the decline of our faith in the symbolic Other (the symbolic order).” (2001b: 79). Basically, what Glynos means is a general decline in trust but also waning economic, existential, as well as physical security, in short: increased uncertainty. Thematically this notion overlaps with Zygmunt Bauman’s (2008) characterisation of contemporary society. If the state previously guaranteed security, its influence is today increasingly seen as oppressive. Instead, in the market- based society where people are consumers, people are encouraged to seek individual solutions to socio-political problems. If these obstacles previously involved political opponents, the state bureaucracy and the alike, the absence of these Others’ takes the form of for example immigrants, criminals or religious groups. This bleak picture of today leads Žižek to assert that all these small Others’ is fetishes replacing and obscuring the true cause of today’s problems - capitalism.

Whilst this forms the understanding of perversion, I intend to use the concept slightly differently. Firstly, instead of understanding perversion as an essentially negative concept it can account for how people in general by no means are blind to their environment. They are rather in a situation where knowing something does not involve acting accordingly. The Lacanian formula, which Žižek uses for this, is ‘I know very well but I do it anyway’ (2006b:58). Given the explanations’ focus on lacking boundaries as a problem behind the riots I believe perversion can provide a productive theorisation of the problems proposed. Essentially, what perversion asks the explanations is whether the proposed problem, for example lack of moral, is that very group specific or if it actually concerns society and politics.



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Title: Re-reading the England Riots