Mark Hebden's Reviews > The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It

The Establishment by Owen   Jones
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it was amazing
bookshelves: politics

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 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.
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Reading Progress

January 5, 2015 – Started Reading
January 5, 2015 – Shelved
January 26, 2015 – Shelved as: politics
January 26, 2015 – Finished Reading

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