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England’s two solitudes

A four-night outbreak of riotous disorder in London and other English cities in early August 2011 is a potent argument for social repair. But lack of agreement on fundamentals could soon prove fatal to progress, says David Hayes.

It is a little over a week since the start of an opportunistic four-day summer carnival of violent looting and burning by fired-up gangs of kids and young adults across parts of urban England. Everything about it and all that followed seems to have passed with the speed of light: the gratification, the outrage, the exculpation, the news, the networking, the messaging, the inquests, the broadcasts, the punditry, the debates - none was ever so instant, nor so deluging. But could this become true too of the forgetting?

The question sounds counterintuitive, even a touch cynical, when the events are still so fresh. But following its thread could also be a way to anticipate what the autumn rains may bring, and where - more widely - the country that incubated this social explosion may be heading.

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About the author

David Hayes is a co-founder of openDemocracy. He has written textbooks on human rights and terrorism, and was a contributor to Town and Country (Jonathan Cape, 1998). His work has been published in PN Review, the Irish Times, El Pais, the Iran Times International, the Canberra Times, the Scotsman, the New Statesman and The Absolute Game. He has edited five print collections of material from the openDemocracy website, including Europe and Islam; Turkey: Writers, Politics, and Free Speech; and Europe: Visions, Realities, Futures. He is the editor of Fred Halliday's Political Journeys - the openDemocracy Essays (Saqi, 2011)

More On

David Hayes is deputy editor of openDemocracy, which he co-founded in 2000. He has written textbooks on human rights and terrorism, and was a contributor to Town and Country (Jonathan Cape, 1998). His work has been published in PN Review, the Irish Times, El Pais, the Iran Times International, the Canberra Times, the Scotsman, the New Statesman and The Absolute Game.

He has edited five print collections of material from the openDemocracy website, including Europe and Islam; Turkey: Writers, Politics, and Free Speech; and Europe: Visions, Realities, Futures. He is the editor of Fred Halliday's Political Journeys - the openDemocracy Essays (Saqi, 2011)

Among his articles on openDemocracy:

"Thinking of Cambodia" (17 April 2003)

"What kind of country?" (28 July 2005)

"William Wallace and reinventing Scotland" (22 August 2005)

"openDemocracy's five years: the editorial story" (11 May 2006)

"Bob Dylan's revolution in the head" (24 May 2006)

"Cornelius Cardew: a life unfinished" (13 December 2007)

"Authority, credibility and openDemocracy" (13 June 2008)

"The London bombs, five years on: a digest" (7 July 2010)

"Edwin Morgan, 1920-2010" (19 August 2010)

"Japan: from tsunami to change" (14 March 2011)

"Fred Halliday: an unfinished voyage" (21 March 2011)

"Ten years, ten articles: a retrospect" (12 May 2011)

"In with the bricks, out for life" (12 May 2011)

"Bob Dylan: a conversation" (23 May 2011)

"Bob Dylan at 70: revolution in the head, revisited" (24 May 2011)

"The foreign correspondent: James Cameron, 1911-85" (17 June 2011)

"Derick Thomson at 90: Gaelic poet in the world" (5 August 2011)


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