"Consumption is not, as one might generally imagine (which is why economic "science" is fundamentally averse to discussing it), an indeterminate marginal sector where an individual, elsewhere constrained by social rules, would finally recover, in the "private" sphere, a margin of freedom and personal play when left on his own. Consumption is a collective and active behavior, a constraint, a morality, and an institution. It is a complete system of values, with all that the term implies concerning group integration and social control.
We don't realize how much the current indoctrination into systematic and organized consumption is the equivalent and the extension, in the twentieth century, of the great indoctrination of rural populations into industrial labor, which occurred throughout the nineteenth century. The same process of rationalization of productive forces, which took place in the nineteenth century in the sector of production is accomplished, in the twentieth century, in the sector of consumption. Having socialized the masses into a labor force, the industrial system had to go further in order to fulfill itself and to socialize the masses (that is, to control them) into a force of consumption."
- Jean Baudrillard, Consumer Society
"The “bloody week,” as it was called, also involved an enormous destruction of property. The Communards, to be sure, were not enamored of the privileges of private property and were not averse to destroying hated symbols. The Vendôme Column—which Napoleon III had doted upon—was toppled in a grand ceremony on the May 16 to symbolize the end of authoritarian rule. The painter Courbet was later held responsible for this act, and condemned to pay for the reconstruction of the monument out of his own pocket. The Communards also decreed, but never carried out, the destruction of the Chapel of Expiation, by which Louis XVIII had sought to impress upon Parisians their guilt in executing his brother. And when Thiers had shown his true colors, the Communards took a certain delight in dismantling his Parisian residence, stone by stone, in a symbolic gesture that Goncourt felt had an “excellent bad effect." But the wholesale burning of Paris was another matter entirely."
- David Harvey, Paris, Capital of Modernity
"We compile a new index that summarizes these variables, and then ask -- for every percentage cut in government spending, how much more instability should we expect? The data shows a clear link between the magnitude of expenditure cutbacks and increases in social unrest. With every additional percentage point of GDP in spending cuts, the risk of unrest increases."
- Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth, Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009 (pdf)
"Lewis Namier famously described 18th-century British politics as ‘aristocracy tempered by rioting’. In fact riots often combine the form of radical protest with reactionary content.
As well established as the riot tradition is reactive alarmism that the country is going to hell in a looted shopping trolley. Namier’s bon mot could be rewritten for our times as ‘plutocracy tempered by riot’. Consumerism holds up varnished designer tat as the sine qua non of civic respect. Its supporting ideology holds that monetary access to consumer goods flows from desert, the sort of thing stockpiled by politicians’ beloved ‘hard-working people and their families’. But everyone – not least Keele University cleaning staff, employed for over thirty years, who get up before six every morning to earn the minimum wage – knows that that is all balls. Acquisitiveness and arson are, as far as this goes, two sides of the same coin. Consumerism may be a mug’s game; but acting as though it efficiently metes out rewards according to desert is a mug’s game run by the mugs. Small wonder when the lid is taken off that those who know the system is a put-up job fill their boots."
- Glen Newey, "To Hell in a Looted Shopping Trolley"