Looting as the psycho-spiritual symbol of the welfare age:

“But it’s more than childish destructiveness motivating the rioters. At a more fundamental level, these are youngsters who are uniquely alienated from the communities they grew up in. Nurtured in large part by the welfare state, financially, physically and educationally, socialised more by the agents of welfarism than by their own neighbours or community representatives, these youth have little moral or emotional attachment to the areas they grew up in. Their rioting reveals, not that Britain is in a time warp back to 1981 or 1985 when there were politically motivated, anti-racist riots against the police, but rather that the tentacle-like spread of the welfare state into every area of people’s lives has utterly zapped old social bonds, the relationship of sharing and solidarity that once existed in working-class communities. In communities that are made dependent upon the state, people are less inclined to depend on each other or on their own social wherewithal. We have a saying in Britain for people who undermine their own living quarters – we call it ‘shitting on your own doorstep’. And this rioting suggests that the welfare state has given rise to a generation perfectly happy to do that.”

19 COMMENTS

  1. Stegall, you are a one-trick pony. Yep, blame it on the welfare state. How about the modern industrial complex and the dehumanizing effects of corporate capitalism? There’s more going on in London than the right’s old bogey “socialism”. I find simplistic one-sided crap of this sort tiring. Don’t you have government work to attend to?

  2. That was written by a leftist/marxist at Spiked Magazine. I just linked it without further comment.

  3. I don’t know the author’s ultimate ideological sympathies lie, but I kind of like the paragraph Caleb quoted…especially when one reads the paragraph which follows it, which puts his condemnation of the rioters as a “welfare-state mob” into an important context:

    Far from being an instance of working-class action, the welfare-state mob has more in common with what Marx described as the lumpenproletariat. Indeed, it is worth recalling Marx’s colourful description in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon of how that French ruler cynically built his power base amongst parts of the bourgeoisie and sections of the lumpenproletariat, so that ‘ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie rubbed shoulders with vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, swindlers, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, brothel-keepers, organ-grinders, ragpickers, knife-grinders, tinkers, beggars… and from this kindred element Boneparte formed the core of his [constituency], where all its members felt the need to benefit themselves at the expense of the labouring nation.’

    Thus we have the neoliberal technocratic elite, enjoying the benefits of a profiteering globalization and a therapeutic multiculturalism, and the dependent masses, crushed beneath the wheel of capitalism and so long without any kind of real economic sovereignty or sustainable community that organizing themselves around a crummy dole-enabled consumerism seems pretty damn obvious. Real work is often all but entirely absent in many inner-city communities, and where it does exist it’s often rendered pointless, wholly dependent upon the good graces of distant bankers and rapidly depleting social capital. Not that this makes engaging in criminal violence and destruction either justified or excusable, but when both Tocqueville and Marx predicted certain similar outcomes, you’ve really got to wonder.

  4. “the tentacle-like spread of the welfare state into every area of people’s lives has utterly zapped old social bonds, the relationship of sharing and solidarity that once existed in working-class communities.”

    And unfortunately, that same zapping has occurred throughout American society where the welfare system is part and parcel of a greater beast fragmenting men into a homogeneous american whole.

  5. I would like to think the solutions are simple: Create places worth caring about, and jobs worth doing. However, my personal experience fills me with despair, and makes me wonder if such a course is even possible at this point. To me, the place where I grew up–West Virginia–is certainly worth caring about. Yet some of the people I grew up with apparently don’t feel the same way. In fact, they seem to have no problem participating in the destruction of the state’s soil, water, air, vistas, and most importantly–its people. Worse yet, this destruction is at the behest, and for the benefit of, outside corporations and entities who see the state’s resources and people as nothing more than numbers on a balance sheet.

  6. “What is the welfare-police state if not corporate capitalism taken to the nth degree?”

    As elderly Catholic ladies often say, Bingo. Today’s Leviathan is comprised of both the corporate and the welfare “states,” both of which are indispensable to the operation of the Machine.

  7. Seems to me that we’re witnessing a self-fulfilling prophesy in the UK. Since the economy finds able-bodied men with no opportunity or inclination to sit behind a desk useless and antisocial the rioters have fulfilled those expectations. What would an economy look like in the modern world that is structured by the needs and abilities of people and not merely by the imperatives of capital?

  8. Robert writes : “However, my personal experience fills me with despair, and makes me wonder if such a course is even possible at this point. ”

    Cheer up. Movement back towards the light began years ago. Our seminaries and young priests are good, and since it has always been a spiritual problem manifesting itself, we can in turn expect similar to the seminaries to manifest themselves in society as a whole. Not that we will see much visible progress in our lifetime, but it will come.

  9. What would an economy look like in the modern world that is structured by the needs and abilities of people and not merely by the imperatives of capital?

    Excellent question, CR. One things for sure–it almost certainly wouldn’t look like Oxford Circus, with nothing but (now burned out and looted) high-end chain stores as far as the eye can see.

  10. The anticipated end result of excessive expectations without any responsibilities embedded in an over-permissive suicidal society. Poor England.

    Are we far behind?

  11. I think these the cause of these riots is far more psychological, as opposed to political. The rioters are predominately young males, and to me the vandalism and looting seems to be a sort of juvenile one-upmanship typical of sporting riots and extreme dares, the modern equivalents of the “right of of passage” initiation into manhood seen in many ancient cultures.

    While they’re likely numerous other circumstances that triggered these events, I don’t think we should see them in light of class struggle, or even as the result of the welfare state until a more diverse population of rioters exist.

  12. The least you could do , Farmer Stegall Esq., when quoting leftists in a Conservative context is to employ the Ironomotican, where the quotation marks are attended by a happy face with a smirk. After all, it is a bit of messy business when liberals actually agree with conservatives on something.

    I think this congruence of thinking may become more frequent because it will not be hard for leftys or rightys to agree that their Social Construct is SNAFU.

  13. Robert said: “I would like to think the solutions are simple: Create places worth caring about, and jobs worth doing. However, my personal experience fills me with despair, and makes me wonder if such a course is even possible at this point. To me, the place where I grew up–West Virginia–is certainly worth caring about. Yet some of the people I grew up with apparently don’t feel the same way. In fact, they seem to have no problem participating in the destruction of the state’s soil, water, air, vistas, and most importantly–its people. Worse yet, this destruction is at the behest, and for the benefit of, outside corporations and entities who see the state’s resources and people as nothing more than numbers on a balance sheet.”

    Thus the problem, as I see it: the state as it exists aids and abets this sort of cultural destruction, and yet there seem to be no stateless solutions — even thinking rather hypothetically — to avoid the same outcome. I too despair of practical solutions, but I’m not even sure I can identify a genuinely sound theoretical one.

    As a native of West Virginia for one day and a close neighbor to it for 25 years, I’m glad to discover that somebody still cares about it.

  14. Oh, and forgive me Mr Stegall for assuming you wrote the piece (although no doubt you agree wholeheartedly with its contents), alas, I was hastily reading it on my iPhone (insert appropriate emoticon here) and missed that distinction.

    Still, I think it presents a woefully limited perspective.

  15. Looting and rioting (and worse) go back a long way. Nothing new under the sun about such behavior, nor anything spcifically modern about them.

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