In the 1950s, in the political journal The Spectator, Henry Fairlie used the term “The Establishment” to mean “the powers that be” and went on to explIn the 1950s, in the political journal The Spectator, Henry Fairlie used the term “The Establishment” to mean “the powers that be” and went on to explain what he meant by that, from the Lords of the Land and gentry through to the Church of England and the Civil Service and more. The term stuck and has been widely attributed to Fairlie since, though it had been used decades before in the same pejorative way by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and then as now its meaning and connotations have been fought over ever since. Owen Jones with this and his previous book “Chavs” clearly knows how to grab the attention with a cutting title and this book though in no way an official follow up to his debut certainly carries on the theme of inequality in modern society, both British and global.
The British Left has seen some big characters pass away in recent years and Jones appearance on the intellectual scene is refreshing. His anger is already carefully grown and tended to while his youth and hope are still clearly apparent. He cannot hope to replace Hobsbawm and Hall in academic terms but there is no doubt that his clear eyed perception of events as they happen is as keen as those two greats of left culture.
Owen Jones’ Establishment is broken down across the book in to the various segments that make up this existential behemoth. The Outriders are the Think Tanks and intellectual foundations of right wing economic and political thought, the politicians come next and their ideology that promotes neoliberal agendas followed closely by the media, police, companies and individual wealthy elites and the ties that bind all of the above to a shared philosophy of greed and selfishness.
His central point is that all of these strands are connected, perhaps not deliberately and conspiratorially, but certainly they mutually benefit one another while all the time knowing they are servile to a kind of dogma that seeks to continually enrich and enfranchise the few at the expense of the many.
Think Tanks exist to put out the initial message that right wing politicians then pick up on to shift public opinion to the right, while simultaneously ignoring all opposition and counter argument, and worse referring to opposing views as “crazy” or “barmy” – see “loony left” as a present case in point – what is seen as an acceptable viewpoint as moved the Overton Window significantly rightwards over the past three decades. The media pick up on what politicians are saying are filter it to benefit their own editorial lines and our press in increasingly owned by the same class of people who govern us, so they have the same goal of power while investigative journalism is dying. The police and security services have suckled on the capitalist teat for many years and have been used as the foot soldiers for capital; against striking workers, football fans, legitimate protest and differing views, Now the police are facing their own cuts program there is no one left to speak out on their behalf – perhaps Niemoller might have sympathy. Sitting behind all this are the lords of Capital; the bankers and hedge fund managers, the economists and free market zealots who have utter and complete belief that they are entitled to ever more wealth at the expense of the rest of society.
Owen Jones plots the path of power accurately and passionately. While his solution remains constrained by niceties of modern socialism it is a heart-felt solution nonetheless. His book is mature, thoughtful and meaningful. It tracks the recent history of power globally but specifically in the United Kingdom and addresses fundamental flaws in our consumer driven market based economy. People from all sides of the argument get a say in a broad spectrum of interviews and discussions and other voices than Jones are prominent in the polemic. His analyses of inequality and instability, scapegoats and power are precise and if this book makes the reader fume with anger at times it also offers glimmers of hope. I don’t think a peaceful, democratic revolution is possible within the confines of modern parliamentary democracy, but perhaps the Greeks are showing us it can be. Anything has to be worth a try for the direction in which we are travelling currently spells nought but disaster and chaos. ...more
Dreadful postmodern philosophising of a third rate shrouded in a pathetic story with no plot, unbelievable characters and left me with a feeling of waDreadful postmodern philosophising of a third rate shrouded in a pathetic story with no plot, unbelievable characters and left me with a feeling of wanting to shoot every single person in the book, then maybe myself. This book made my eyes want to be sick. ...more
We are in the Portugal of Salazar at roughly the time of the Spanish Civil War across the border. The shadow of fascism is marching, jack-booted, acroWe are in the Portugal of Salazar at roughly the time of the Spanish Civil War across the border. The shadow of fascism is marching, jack-booted, across Western Europe and the people of Portugal are coming to realise they are living in a dictatorship. Our central character, Pereira, is a literary man, a doctor who writes a culture section for a newspaper, The Lisboa, whose owner is part of the ruling, intolerant elite. His desire is to write nothing more than a series of features on recent European writers with the occasional obituary and anniversary feature; his passion is for French literary heroes such as the anti-fascist Bernanos or the human rights expert Maritain, while his editor wants him to focus on Portuguese nationalist authors, who, Pereira maintains, have neither the style, grace nor literary acumen for a serious literary publication.
Pereira has failing health, a creeping paranoia about his acquaintances and a penchant for talking to his dead wife’s photograph on the mantelpiece. Into his life stumbles Rossi, an Italian/Portuguese youth whose radicalism, along with his Girlfriend Marta’s, at once terrifies and excites Pereira. Pereira doesn’t know why he can’t get these people out of his life and live in the safe, warm bosom of literature and culture which his professional life holds dear. It is through a doctor, whom we meet as Pereira takes a few days at a spa for health reasons who gives us some insight into the human condition under intolerance. Doctor Costa, whose specialty lies in psychology, informs him of the ego and super-ego which dominates a series of personalities within us.
During this episode the book takes on a Hegelian, almost Lacanian sphere as a certain modernist psychoanalysis of humanity indicates the trajectory of our central character, which he finds to be in direct conflict with his Catholic faith. He is changing, changing as a response to the despotism that has come to colour and shape his life, and the life of those people around him he once or has come to care for. As the book heads to a conclusion we know a single act will mark the completion of the change and it is not until the very end of the book that we find out what that act is. Is it brave, is it folly, is it heroism on a Homeric level, a realisation that complacency is not an option or the desperate lashing out of a man, representing a fair society that has not long to live? Whichever it is, the book leads us to this point majestically and gives a real sense of the desperation of pre-fascist Europe without the unremittingly bleak sense of forboding as those immediate pre-war years.
We do not know what happens to Pereira upon committing his act of rebellion, but given that the novel is written in the third person, almost as a testimony on behalf of an accused, it may be safe to assume that he is in custody of some political authority, as so many were who rebelled against the totalitarian onslaught. This book is a wonderfully concentrated and generously framed portrait of Portugal in the 1930s, at once condensed and wide open, heavily stylised and with a sharp philosophical curve, unsurprisingly it was written during the reign, if that is the right word, of Silvio Berlusconi in the author’s native Italy. Tabucchi has been compared to Italo Calvino, which probably does both authors a disservice and comes mainly from the fact that they share a translator. There is nothing post-modern, fantastical or avant-garde in Pereira Maintains but is a very real portrait of creeping autocracy, and all the better for that. A terrific, short and engaging book....more
Philip Legrain’s book documents the case for immigration through cultural, economic and humanitarian necessity. Many myths are dispelled here includinPhilip Legrain’s book documents the case for immigration through cultural, economic and humanitarian necessity. Many myths are dispelled here including the supposed benefits culture that attracts lazy migrants and the “stealing” of jobs by economic migrants. Legrain’s polemic is very timely in an age of great uncertainty and propaganda from the right wing in politics to reach for a culture of blame and scapegoating those weaker than ourselves for our own problems. The benefits to developed nations quite clearly outweigh any negative points there may be when the cases are looked at rationally. This is not however, a far left wing look at things, merely sensible. Our economies will expand by letting in foreigners and capitalism will thrive. The money economic migrants send home to their poorer relatives already outweighs the paltry amounts given in aid by developed nations, and this money can be sure to reach its intended destination more effectively. Migration is good for our countries in the West and for developing nations and their populations overseas. This is a fantastic book that should be read by politicians the world over...more