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“Lack of willingness to learn English … I mean, Swedish!”

May 27, 2013

Cars burn and riot police walk in Stockholm on May 22, 2013.image via

Everyone agrees on one thing – it is possible to understand why these riots are happening. But how strange! When rioting broke out in London and other English cities in August 2011, following the police murder of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, an economically-deprived part of North London, it was as if all explanations had suddenly been taken away: ‘now is not the time to explain, now is the time to act!’, ‘we don’t care why this is happening, we just want it to stop!’, ‘more police now!’, with the prime minister, David Cameron weighing in with the mighty sociological suggestion that this was ‘criminality pure and simple’. How curious that it should be so much easier for the British media to comment on the Swedish situation than it was to comment on its own! But this is how the fantasy-logic of nations works: ignore the larger picture, shrug off global trends and patterns, stress the singularity and specificity of events so that it becomes impossible to understand how unemployment in certain cities, say, relates to the global economic crisis. We even have this admission from the BBC: ‘But there does seem to be a particular Swedish problem. The country had a reputation for generosity and an especially welcoming attitude but now something is clearly going wrong.’ - the implication perhaps being that Britain has a reputation for being unkind, so that any riots that follow are perfectly well to be expected in such a cruel and inhospitable environment.

Read More | “Rioting with Reason: From England to Sweden and Back Again” | Nina Power | Mute