The law of crowds

Legal Studies 36 (3):395-414 (2016)
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Abstract
From the Arab Spring and Occupy to the London riots and student tuition fee protests, the disordered crowd has re-emerged as a focal point of anxiety for law makers. The paper examines two recent cases where the UK courts have thought about crowds. In Austin, the House of Lords connected the crowd to an idea of human nature. This essentialist rendering placed the crowd within an old analytical register where it is understood to release a primordial violence. In Bauer, the Administrative Court utilised a very different sense of the ‘crowdness’ of the crowd to uphold the conviction of UK Uncut activists for aggravated trespass. In their novelty and difference, these two mutually exclusive senses of the crowd open an essential question of the relation between law and society. This paper introduces the ‘Law of Crowds’ as a distinctive way to understand the questions of protest, revolt and democracy.
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