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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses those typically explosive, destructive, and sometimes acquisitive properties of urban riots that are invariably seized upon by politicians and media commentators as evidence of “irrationality” and/or “wanton criminality.” The chapter emphasizes that, far from constituting essentially “meaningless” acts of collective aggression, such forms of behavior invariably reflect a strong underlying political rationale. The chapter uses the notion of “issue-oriented rioting” as a basis for maintaining that public disorder is typically composed of convergent emotional and rational dimensions. It illustrates the undoubted significance of the word-of-mouth and electronically mediated communication occurring between riot participants, and of the quality of ongoing interaction between the police and civilians, and highlights the general point that the meanings and motives underlying attacks on police, and destruction and looting of property, can only be fully understood with reference to the relevant socio-political context.

Keywords: rationality, political context, motives, meanings

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