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Wednesday 11 April 2012 at 09:30 - 11:30 THEORY


CONTEMPORARY PROTEST AND CRITIQUE Dawson, M.


ROGER STEVENS 05 University of Glasgow


A Durkheimian Critique of the Big Society The UK Government's policy of attempting to foster the 'Big Society' would seem to be an opportunity for sociology to engage directly in public policy debates, which I attempt to do in this presentation.


This will begin by outlining


Emile Durkheim's radical political sociology which, whilst seeming to share similarities with the Big Society is, I will argue, a particularly potent form of critique. flagship policy.


This has three major claims to make concerning the government's Firstly, the appeal to 'local patriotism' will lead to increased moral fragmentation and create a


'postcode lottery'. Secondly, the Big Society critique of the state both exaggerates its role in generating 'egotistic individualism' and masks its own heavily statist nature. Thirdly, the combining of such a policy with hopes for rejuvenating economic growth overlooks how the Big Society will lead to the expansion of the 'amoral character of economic life'. Some of these concerns can already be identified in the stop the cuts protests and English riots of 2011. I will conclude by suggesting how Durkheim's political sociology returns us to the central concerns of economic inequality and regulation as well as the need for an expanded democratic sphere.


Carrigan, M. University of Warwick 'There's no money left in the kitty': Austerity Politics and the Deficit of Sociological Imagination


In this presentation I will explore the unfolding of austerity politics in the UK in terms of longstanding tendencies towards the narrowing of political and cultural horizons in political life. I argue that this trend can, at root, be understood in terms of a 'deficit of sociological imagination' in mainstream political discourse. While Wright-Mills felt able to write in 1959 that 'the sociological imagination is becoming, I believe, the major common denominator of of our cultural life and its signal feature', there has been a precipitous decline in its prominence and significance since he made this (perhaps overly optimistic) claim. I suggest that without sociological imagination 'private troubles' become connected to 'public issues' in ideological and one-dimensional modes which, in denying the possibility of alternatives, so too undercut the feasibility of political agency for large swathes of the populace. I frame my arguments in terms of what I take to be the most egregious and radical manifestation of this tendency: the contemporary politics of austerity.


Whimster, S. Predicting Riots


This presentation draws on a 2007 publication and chapter, London as a Global City. This predicted social unrest based on an analysis of the global division of labour and London's place in it, using primarily Durkheim as a theoretical framework. Accordingly, London suffers from forms of an abnormal division of labour with corresponding effects on social solidarity. Unlike Durkheim's nation based perspective, London is best seen as an urban regime. Cities compete against each other, but London's subjection to the needs of financial capital and City of London means that social solidarity is neglected.


While Durkheim's analysis predicted a class of abnormal social phenomena, the exact form these take cannot be specified. In terms of social order, riots belong to a class of pathological phenomena that could include gun crime, gang behaviour, social isolation, psychological problems. Further, 'riots' are not self-evidently a social fact, but a manifestation of a wider category.


In conclusion, instant analysis can offer a phenomenology of riots, but proper causal analysis should have predictive capability.


Dinerstein, A.C. The 'revolt of the indignants' in Europe: Disagreement and Politics against la Police


The wave of protests that has inundated the streets of Southern European cities has placed democracy as a key component of the discourse of resistance to economic reforms. Yet, the significance of the protesters' demand of 'real democracy now' for the current debates about the European crisis, economic policy and radical change by academics and intellectuals has yet to be assessed. This paper offers both an analysis of the 'revolt of the indignants' in Europe and a reflection of the significance of the issue of 'democracy' for Sociology. By engaging with Rancière's work, in particular his distinction between 'la police'—'an order of bodies that defines the allocation of ways of doing, ways of being, and ways of saying' (Rancière, 1999: 29), and politics—which designates 'whatever breaks with that configuration' (idem ant), the paper suggests that the European 'revolt of the indignants' insinuates


80 University of Bath University of Bonn


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