2011: Young rioters and imagined revolution in the British Utopia of Calm

Benjamin Bowman

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2 Citations (SciVal)


Were the English riots of 2011 a revolution? Michael Hardt called the revolution
in established democracies ‘a process that not only destroys habits of servitude
and develops capacities for self-rule but also inspires people’s political imagination and expands their desires, which can press far beyond the present political situation’. In this essay, the results of a critical discourse analysis of media depictions of young rioters in 2011 are applied to Hardt’s concept. The political situation of young people in the United Kingdom (UK) is identified as a Utopia of Calm, in which young people are promised economic stability and citizenship in return for conformity to hegemonic neoliberal norms about earning, learning and being a good citizen. This promise rings false during the contemporary economic crisis and amid enduring inequalities of opportunity and risk across socioeconomic boundaries and, central among the causes of the riots, race. By exploring how young rioters were recast as revolutionaries, an assessment is made of the capacity for the riots to inspire the political imagination beyond the status quo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-103
Number of pages14
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2014


  • young people
  • politics
  • UK
  • riots
  • revolution
  • utopia
  • media discourse
  • critical discourse analysis
  • discourse analysis
  • youth
  • British Politics


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