Grenfell, Austerity and Institutional Violence

Cooper, Vickie and Whyte, David (2022). Grenfell, Austerity and Institutional Violence. Sociological Research Online, 27(1) pp. 207–216.



The complex chains of decisions that produce disasters like the Grenfell Tower fire are not readily described as ‘violence.’ ‘Violence’ is something that remains largely understood in popular consciousness, and in sociology, as an interpersonal phenomenon, and as the result of a deliberate attempt to cause harm. This is largely because our understanding of violence is always somehow connected to legal concepts and principles. In this article we argue that the Grenfell fire was produced by a form of collective decision-making that we describe as institutional violence; it reflects the routine order and detached administration of a form of violence that is intimately connected to a more insidious targeting of subject groups and populations in ways that produce and increase the likelihood of other, ongoing, violent circumstances occurring.

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