Chapter 9Riots

Peter Baudains

9.1 Introduction

Riots involve groups of people at a given location engaging in or threatening acts of violence for a common purpose. Outbreaks of rioting can have significant implications for global dynamics. Locally, they can disrupt economic activity and drastically alter the social cohesion of an area. At the regional level, news reporting of rioting in one location has been shown to provide the stimulus for rioting in other locations (Myers, 2000; see also Chapter 13 of this volume, which considers contagion of ethnic conflict across national borders via media channels). A cascading effect can then elevate regional instability and unrest into the domain of global dynamics (Braha, 2012).

As well as being relevant to the study of global dynamics, riots provide an archetypal example of a complex social system. The behaviour of individuals during rioting is influenced by interaction with those nearby. Ongoing riots act as situational precipitators, serving to prompt, pressure, permit or provoke individuals to engage in the disorder (Wortley, 2008). Individual behaviours, influenced by such interaction, combine to generate emergent patterns in the intensity, timings and locations of rioting. Such emergent behaviour is a defining feature of a complex system (Newman, 2011) and was particularly evident during the 2011 riots in London, during which outbreaks of rioting occurred in various locations across the capital. Due to the natural way in which ...

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