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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.
David Hayes
19 August 2011

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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