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Young people, 'flawed protestors' and the commodification of resistance

Miles, S (2014) Young people, 'flawed protestors' and the commodification of resistance. Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural Studies, 28. ISSN 0256-0046

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Abstract

In seeking to understand the nature of the struggle represented by the UK riots of 2011 (in which half of all crimes during the disorder were against commercial premises), this article critically considers Bauman's (2011) contention that these were the riots of defective and disqualified consumers. It reflects on how far youth resistance is, and arguably always has been, constituted around the ability – or otherwise – to consume. The concern here is with the degree to which consumption can genuinely contribute to the integrative and communicative rationality of society (Canclini 2001) and how young people's relationship to that rationality may inform an understanding of the social relevance of resistance. The article challenges the assumption that the riots demonstrate a consensus of contestation amongst young people, arguing that these events counter-intuitively constitute a ‘culture of acceptance’ in which young people struggle to imagine themselves beyond the parameters that orthodox consumerism provides. The article is concerned not with the role of resistance as anti-capitalist militancy, but as a pragmatic means by which young people seek to frame themselves ‘outside’ (or indeed inside) the parameters of consumerism. It calls for a more sophisticated examination of the relationship between resistance and consumption, suggesting that in resisting consumer capitalism, young people are in danger of tying themselves more closely to the very ideology against which they rebel.

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