Owen Jones takes on The Establishment
In a world of cynical old hacks, right-wing evangelists, born-again neoliberals and old fashioned bigots it’s good to know Owen Jones is out there challenging their bilious outpourings and pitching for some of the old values of the British Left. And he does it with an easy and accessible style that has none of the pretensions of the worst corners of academia. Jones touched a nerve with his breakthrough book, Chavs, when he exposed the casual prejudice doled out to the working class, the marginalised and the oppressed by the press and the power elite that make up the establishment in this country. His new book takes the next logical step and seeks to eviscerate the Establishment itself. Written in the same easy-going style as Chavs, Jones sets himself the task of trying to pin down who and what ‘the establishment’ is/are. Not an easy task because, as he acknowledges, he himself is now open to the charge of being part of that very same establishment. In fact, it can be argued I think, that Jones never does in fact manage to pin the badge on anyone in a really convincing way. If pulling back the curtain on the identity of the establishment is more tricky than might be expected, what is considerably easier to see is the results of their machinations – and this is what Jones lays bare with some skill. In reality this book isn’t about the ‘establishment’ at all: it would be more accurately entitled How the neo-liberal economic conspiracy was hatched and how it has been implemented in the UK. As such it’s a great read because it does the hard work for you, pulling together strands of information you half knew or had half read somewhere and marshalling them into a bulldozer of an argument. His publishers have done him no favours by tagging him as the ‘Orwell of his generation’ (he isn’t) but he does write with clarity and with a distinctive voice that leaves you wanting more. There are weaknesses ( the monarchy gets off far too lightly and where is the chapter about education? ) but this is a polemic not a text book. It’s the type of book you’d hope students would pass around amongst themselves outside of lectures and the type of book you hope would make someone choke over their oysters and caviar in the gentlemen’s clubs of the Square Mile.