In August 2011 ‘riots’ swept across the UK to a scale and intensity not witnessed for over thirty years. A major research study soon exposed the obvious links between these riots and their surrounding social context. Nonetheless the dominant and populist explanatory narratives decontextualized them primarily by drawing upon outdated psychological and criminological theories of the crowd. On the one hand the ‘riots’ were depicted as the pathological aberrations of ‘mob psychology’ and on the other as the result of the convergence of mindless criminals. In contrast, this presentation will discuss some of the evidence concerning the behavioural complexity of the ‘riots’ and outline what their nature tells us about their underlying social psychology, potential origins and dynamics.
It will be argued that an identity-based theory of crowds not only provides greater explanatory power but also challenges the explanations put forward by powerful groups, that all too often and easily push aside scientifically validated theory in the interest of politics and ideology.
About the presenter: http://www.law.leeds.ac.uk/people/staff/clifford-stott