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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant critical analysis of the riots for the general reader, 19 Nov 2011
By 
Dr. J. DRURY (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
This book is by far the best academic account - so far the only academic account - of the riots that took place this summer in London and other English cities. It is the only analysis I have seen which attempts to detail how conflict emerged and escalated during these events. What is clear from this analysis is that the `common sense' views propagated by the mass media and politicians - that the riots were due to people simply getting `carried away' because they were anonymous, `contagion', `criminal' personalities, and poor upbringing - are not simply ideological but hopelessly inadequate as explanations. The book systematically demolishes these and other myths about riots, through a review of the social scientific and historical evidence. It then presents the current social scientific understanding of crowd conflict, developed through over 30 years of research. This suggests that conflict emerges through clashes in competing definitions of legitimacy and develops through crowd empowerment. The detailed account of what happened during the events, based on painstaking analysis of hours of youtube videos and other contemporaneous material, avoids the clichés. It supports the authors' view that these riots - like those at Watts, St Pauls, Brixton and others in the past - are not `mindless' but rather are meaningful assertions of collective identity. I am recommending my students to buy this book, though it is a book written for the (critical) general reader, not for an academic audience. I would recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in understanding this summer's riots, and anyone interested in understanding crowd conflict generally.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and timely analysis of the English riots, 21 Nov 2011
This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
This engaging, entertaining and insightful book provides the first evidence-based analysis of the August 2011 English riots, and will be of interest to both a general and academic audience. Since reports of collective disorder first appeared on our television screens on August 6th, commentators have been virtually unanimous in condemning the riots using classic explanations of crowd behaviour. The riots were caused by an atavistic mindless mass as individuals lost their anonymity within the crowd. The riots were caused by a convergence of Britain's `feral underclass', creating a critical mass of scum that wrought havoc for criminal ends. Right?

Wrong. Steve Reicher and Cliff Stott - two leading academics within the discipline of crowd psychology - present the first systematic analysis of the riots, and argue that the riots were not the result of `mob mentality' or individual pre-dispositions, but were contingent upon issues of social identity and context. Drawing from historical evidence, the authors first outline the origins of mythological crowd psychology explanations. These accounts are then dismantled with reference to more than 30 years of evidence from psychology. This research argues that all collective behaviour - no matter how objectionable - is rooted in social identity, shared understandings and historical context, and must therefore be treated as meaningful.

Next, Reicher and Stott provide a thorough analysis of the riots using news reports, eyewitness accounts, and - most compellingly for an ebook format - online video clips. The book makes a convincing case for explaining the riots within a social identity framework. However, as the authors themselves argue, one may disagree with their theory but still accept the basic premise of the book; that the tired, misinformed and ideological explanations offered thus far are not only inadequate in accounting for the evidence, but have dangerous implications for public order policing, penal sentencing, and police-community relations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, informed and insightful, 23 Nov 2011
This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
An informed and objective analysis of the 2011 riots is badly needed. Steve Reicher and Cliff Stott are uniquely positioned to offer such an analysis: both are internationally recognised experts in crowd behaviour and public order policing. They present both a detailed chronological account of the riots and a sophisticated, cutting-edge analysis grounded in decades of meticulous research on crowds and rioting. They highlight the complexity of the events and the inadequacy of simplistic explanations, arguing that the crowd behaviour during those four days was far from meaningless, and that we ignore the background of injustice and grievances created by indiscriminate, insensitive policing at our peril. The book is written in an engaging and accessible style and will be indispensible to anybody wishing to understand the 2011 riots, or indeed riots in general.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent report; a stupid format, 9 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
I was led to this book through a sample in an article in the Guardian, and something about it stuck a chord with me. Having decided to purchase it, I then hit the brick wall that it was only available as a Kindle version. Since I don't have a Kindle, this is a problem. It turns out that Amazon have a Kindle Reader software package for computers, but since I don't plan on taking my desktop on the train, this is somewhat useless. Still, I bought the book anyway in the hope that the Kindle Reader software would print it. It won't. However, after much considerable inconvenience and a lot of wasted time using screen grabs, I eventually managed to get the contents on sheets of A4. Highly annoying, and I would consider marking the book down if it weren't for the fact that I think its content is so important.

I am fortunate to be writing this review after the subsequent publishing by the Guardian and LSE of their "Reading the Riots" series, and there is considerable overlap of conclusion with this book. As has been said by another reviewer, that will not please certain parties, namely those who are keen to simplify those who participated as "bad people". The conclusions of this book are similar to those of Philip Zimbardo in the Stanford Prison Experiment, that if you take people and put them in a situation they will take on the attributes of that situation. That is not quite the same as excusing participants as simply getting carried away with the crowd, but does emphasise that context is absolutely key. And that context is resoundingly anti-police.

There is a strongly critical stance towards the police, not just their actions at the riots themselves, but their historical behaviour in those communities in which the riots occurred. This is brave for the authors to state so directly in a society where the courts have made it very clear that people should be "made an example of". The author's conclusions go directly against the official party line of the government, the police and the CPS, and it is refreshing to read a book which doesn't feel it has been tainted by censorship.

As a result of reading this book, I also purchased another of Cliff Stott's previous books on Football Hooliganism, and the style and themes are very similar between both books. Both take the issues firmly by the horns, and reach conclusions which are not flattering for the official stance. The joy of such books is that they are written by academics who have sufficiently rigorous clout to not simply be brushed aside as 'hippy opinion'.

Left-wing readers and those who like to think about the deeper issues behind events will revel in this book; tabloid fundamentalists, police officers, and those who like simplistic black and white approaches will hate it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mad mobs rule, 15 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
An extremely interesting read from the beginning. Explanation of how riots start to the power of the crowd over the police. Who is targeted in a riot and why. Excellent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 22 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
I thought this book was fascinating. I agreed with so much that the authors wrote and they have dug up so many interesting facts. Look behind the front pages of newspapers before coming to any conclusion about important events seems to be the motto. So true!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting read, 18 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
I bought this ebook for a slightly more academic look at the London riots of 2011 and I wasn't disappointed. The text is interesting, well researched and well presented.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent wake up call, 27 May 2012
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This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
I strongly recommend this timely and fascinating analysis of the complexity of the 2011 Riots especially for those in a position to influence policing, equalities and perceptions of legitimacy. I say that as a senior police officer who found the descriptions of how policing strategies and tactics can completely undermine the policing mission of keeping the peace. What was most stark for be was the way by which the authors reminded the reader that the lessons were there from the relatively recent past but we have just failed to learn them.

The recognition by the authors that, despite the hours of research they had undertaken to understand what went on, they couldn't have all the answers this soon is a refreshing change from the expectations we have of the media and politicians to come up with answers and come up with them now. Such events take time to research and understand and in today's 24/7 news 'have it all now' society the risks of not taking time for mature reflection are that sound bite responses evolve into sound bite policy which can perpetuate rather than alleviate the problem
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social Psychology's response to the 'mad mob' media hype, 22 Nov 2011
This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
The events of summer 2011 provoked a deluge of academic and political explanations of why apparently chaotic, dangerous and irrational criminal behaviour emerged in Tottenham and spread through London and other major cities. Politicians, the media and academics all gave immediate knee-jerk armchair analyses of the reasons for the violence. Much of this commentary was hysterical, most was politically motivated and little of it had any grounding in scientific theory or fact. In `Mad Mobs and Englishmen' Reicher and Stott now provide a clear and considered evidence-based response from the perspective of Social Psychology.

Drawing on 30 years of crowd psychology research into real-life political demonstrations, protests and riots, their analysis of the 2011 England riots is succinct and illuminating. They unpack the sensationalised media arguments and show how talk of the `mad mob' has been a recurring theme throughout journalistic history. They go on to contrast this with the real dynamics of crowd conflict: from the first iconic incidents which lead to the outbreak of confrontation to the escalation of conflict. Finally, from an analysis of their comprehensive archive of media coverage and video footage, they provide concrete answers as to the origins and spread of the violence as well as an analysis of the role of police response in escalating the crowd conflict. Their analysis is provocative and serves as a warning that unless police and politicians look beyond the easy answers of media hype, the next recurrence may have even more serious consequences.

In addition to this thought-provoking analysis, the book is also a comprehensive popular introduction to the area of crowd psychology and will be of interest to students, teachers and academic researchers alike. It also showcases the relevance of Social Psychology for the study of critical contemporary social issues and, at a time when questions are asked about the impact of academic research on society, it makes a clear contribution to progressive social policy debate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not entirely convincing, 19 May 2012
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This review is from: Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots (Kindle Edition)
This book is not exactly light reading, but it is interesting and well-argued, which is not surprising in the light of the authors' impressive credentials. However, I am not entirely convinced by some of their conclusions. "You will get rid of looting if you deal with anti-police grievances" and "insensitive policing generated conflict" are both somewhat sweeping statements and the former at least is hardly substantiated in this book.

In spite of some perceptions to the contrary, England since the war has had more than its fair share of rioting: the Poll Tax riots, anti-capitalist ones, student fees violence, major disturbances in the miners' stikes and football hooliganism spring to mind. Yet the authors choose as their main parallels the St Paul's riots in Bristol, Broadwater Farm, the 1981 riots and race-based rioting in Los Angeles. There is obviously some justification for this, and the book focuses to a great extent on racial disadvantage, but in fact there was a significant white involvement, at least latterly, and some Asian shopkeepers suffered considerably (though the book does not imply that they were "racially disadvantaged" in this instance).

The spin-off disturbances outside London are hardly covered, and from the north-west perspective, by which I mean in the main Manchester, they were seen as an excuse for looting. People here who actually witnessed what was going on said that, "it was not rioting it was looting", and the police seem to have been caught unprepared.

This is a serious and important work and the authors state clearly at the beginning, "the need for more information and more understanding". They also ask for a balanced, cautious view to be taken, and the book demonstrates the need for that.
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