Books | ‘The Establishment’ enlightens readers to the injustices of modern society
In his new book The Establishment: And how they get away with it, Owen Jones attempts to introduce a debate that is ‘long overdue – a debate not just about who rules us, but about the threat they pose to democracy itself’. Jones was also the author of the international bestseller Chavs, which was long listed for the Guardian First Book Award and received Young Writer of the Year prize at the Political Books Award. He gives a definition of the establishment as a term that is ‘loosely’ used to mean ‘those with power who I object to’. He argues that the establishment is instead about ‘power and mentality’.
To legitimise his argument Jones investigates the central power of the establishment and some of its leading figures in off-the-record chats, lunches, and meetings in top business headquarters with beautiful scenic views of the capital. Various key contributors to political matters are quoted, including Henry Fairlie, the journalist who first brought the term ‘The Establishment’ into common use. Others include Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, right-wing blogger and columnist Paul Staines or “Guido Fawkes”, Masden Pirie, Friedrich Hayek, Mark Littlewood, Steve Varley, David Blanchflower and many more.
Jones covers a range of examples to accompany his analysis of the ruling elite’s usage of power for their own interests. Starting with think-tanks such as the Adam Smith Institute and free-market organisations such as the Tax Payers Alliance, he goes on to look at the Thatcher settlement, right-wing bias in the media, the police force and tax avoidance. Though many of his arguments are valid and passionately articulated, it can sometimes lead to repetitive reading. For example the constant reference to the establishment as being like L’Oréal’s ‘Because you’re worth it’ campaign quickly grows tiresome.
Aside from the flaws, Owen Jones has written an insightful book into the world of elite business and politics, and the effects it has on everyone under the rule of the establishment. He concludes that a ‘democratic revolution – to reclaim by peaceful means the democratic rights and power annexed by the Establishment – is long overdue’. Caroline Lucas, Brighton’s Green MP, is quoted recalling the reaction to cuts to council tax benefits, saying, ‘what really struck her was that people weren’t angry, they were just so ground down by it all. It was just like they’d lost the will to fight’. Jones’ book enlightens readers to the injustices taking place in modern society, provoking anger in the reader throughout and instilling a desire to help change.
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