Veblen in the (Inner) City: On the Normality of Looting
Sociological Research Online
Drawing on Veblen’s concept of ‘pecuniary prowess’ I will argue that the August riots can be understood not so much in terms of protest but as an appropriation of the underlying acquisitive logic of capitalism. The violent realisation of that logic across class divides has become more likely due to an erosion in plausibility of discourses of meritocratic legitimacy. Recent denigrating discourses around “chavs” as dangerous and undeserving poor can be understood as attempts to reinstate meritocratic legitimacy rhetorically, but in an increasingly unequal society this becomes an ever more difficult enterprise. On the other hand, the assertion of the order of property through an effective police response may have eased the pressure by providing evidence that anxieties about a full scale insurgence are unfounded.
Vol. 16, Issue 4