The global fall in stock market prices in the last few days has eerily coincided with the most astonishing high street scenes across London and the UK. Zoe Williams writing in today’s Guardian newspaper provides a useful analysis of the a-political character of these youthful riots. Picking up on Jean Baudrillard, via Alex Hiller, she points out the dislocation of consumer society from a sense of social norms. Or, in other words, it seems that consumption and anomie are not inconsistent with each other. Thus these riots have mostly involved the looting of shops for higher end trophies — branded clothing, phones, laptops, cigarettes and alcohol. They are primarily about stuff, not ideas. This woman in north east London puts it eloquently. Equally, I would add, the global flows of capital within the neo-liberal economic system are also about a disembedding of commodities from society, and the material realities of their production and exchange.
We’re a month away from the conference. Organisationally, things are dropping into place. The programme is finalised (with the exception of the usual last-minute changes). The conference dinner location is fixed. The keynote speakers are warming up. The book of absracts is close to print. And no doubt conference presenters are busy focusing their papers.
The enthusiastic response in terms of papers submitted and delegate registrations suggests that there are many out there dedicated to embedding or re-embedding design into politics. Of course one of our conference aims is to revindicate ‘lost’ histories of design activism, to show that this has been the case for a long time. But it also seems a good moment for us to go backwards in order to move forwards.