Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Philosophy and the Riots

I have just been reading some remarks on the work of German philosopher Ernst Junger (by Mounier).

Junger, it seems, was a philosopher who adhered to the view that in the nihilistic contexts of modernity, action becomes freed from all restraint and individuals become fired with a passion and intensity for ecstasy and/or power.

This is obviously one explanation for events such as the recent riots. However, does it really explain such events? Surely we need to factor in the very brutal reality of the current recessionary environment into this?

It is no suprise that the last serious riots in the UK were during the last serious recession (early 1980s). What, then, is the relationship between cultures of nihilism and economic forces?

Neil Turnbull


  1. I was and still am, unsure of what to think about the riots.

    On the one hand as you say there is surely a link between the economy and cultures of nihilism. In addition to this politically, the riots seem to prove a point - that we have had too many cuts, and that people can cause mayhem simply because we do not have the 'economic forces' to physically stop them.

    I can empathise with what Junger is saying, and I think that the everyday response adheres to this, in that 'they had nothing better to do'. If people have nothing better to do than setting fire to things and theft, surely we have to raise questions about a nihilistic society? If these people are destroying their own communitites then I think there is little faith left for them - In an Aristotelian lense they are not 'happy' they are not participating in activities according with their virtues, but things which pull away from these. And this is sad.

    I also thought that it was interesting that David Cameron said that part of society is sick - surely then this is because of something which society has caused? The sickness which he is describing is not one which comes at birth, but a sickness of our time???

    However I also think 'don't bite the hand that feeds you', and more than likely a good percentage of rioters were people living in council houses and claiming benefits, in which case - if your susrvival depends upon the state - taxpayers - isnt it a bit of a slap in the face to set fire to police stations, and go looting, as taxpayers will now be paying for this aswell.

    On a personal level, if you where to take somebody homeless in, provide them with food and shelter, and tell them that there were going to be a few cutbacks, but they would still have food and shelter and they burnt down your house, would this be justifiable?

    I would like to think that there is more to life than money, all of the times people have told me theres a recession, I've never felt it, I'm still alive and always had plenty to eat and paid the bills (on a student loan which works out far far less than unemployment benefits). Yet I think that in the world we live in for young and easily impenetrable minds, media paints a picture of success and value which is different to mine, so there we go? Its the media hahaha.

    Sorry this hasnt really answered your question, I thought you would like a response and somebody elses thoughts either way...


  2. oops thats easily penetrable minds* just read it back hehe

  3. There is an interesting report by a researchers at Tullett Prebon that discusses some of these issues (and uses an obvious re-phrasing of Descartes' famous cogito as a titular framework).

    Tullett Prebon is one of the largest inter-dealer money brokers in the world!

    You can read this at: