Anger in the City.

Negative Solidarities and the Pursuit of the Common Bad in the Context of the 2011 English Riots

  • Monia O’Brien Castro Tours University
Keywords: culture, democracy, exclusion, gang, riot, neoliberalism


Starting from Hannah Arendt’s concept of negative solidarities, the thrust of this paper is to determine whether the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, in the aftermath of the 2011 English riots, manufactured a moral panic with the help of the mass media, presumably in order to distract British people from the damaging social effects of neoliberal capitalism and to be in a position to legitimise and impose its Big Society ideology. I shall demonstrate that angered ‘gang’ members and rioters, beyond appearances, may be understood as irregular participants in a democratic process exercising some measure of positive solidarity against the state. In addition, I shall contend that on the contrary, the coalition deliberately rejected the social dimension of riots and endeavoured to escape political responsibility, instrumentalising ‘gangs’ and adopting the recurring blame-it-on-the Blacks/poor approach to keep its alibi intact, thereby practising negative solidarity.

Author Biography

Monia O’Brien Castro, Tours University

Monia O’Brien Castro is senior lecturer in British studies at Tours University, France. She has widely published on British deprived urban areas and the phenomena attached to them (exclusion, riots and ‘gangs’ notably). She has also released Preserving the Sixties: Britain and the “Decade of Protest” with Palgrave Macmillan and 30 Years After: Issues and Representations of the Falklands War with Ashgate in 2014, translated history books and worked as a scientific adviser for La Villette exhibition centre in Paris.