Many philosophers have argued that society is a structure for containing human desire, viciousness and aggression. Freud adds a novel twist. He argues that society doesn't hold the aggression in check. Rather it introjects it back into the individual. Destructive desires are internalised. Most of the time we 'put into action against the ego the same harsh aggressiveness that the ego would have liked to satisfy upon other extraneous individuals.'
But it's a fragile setup. It holds for much of the time. But when upset, pent up aggression overspills, violence follows fast, and the structures of society that had seemed so strong dissolve like salt.
As my part of London effectively went into curfew last night, and we scanned blogs and exchanged texts to see how far the looting and arson had spread, the city felt like a case in point.