Sarah Clement's Reviews > The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It

The Establishment by Owen   Jones
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It surprises me how well-received this book has been, despite the fact that it is merely a summary of what most people on the left already talk about ad nauseum. I am not even British, but none of this was particularly surprising to me. More importantly, if I had read Jones' bio before reading the book, then I could have essentially written the text of the book based on that bio. Let's see...some Thatcher bashing, ranting about neoliberalism, a bit of working class identity politics, some Northern poor versus Southern elites stuff, a rant against new labour, etc. I am a leftie, but this is all boilerplate leftie stuff without any real context or in-depth explanation, which is what this book could have done differently.

As other reviewers have said, the interviews were handled poorly, with a brief scene-setting (literal scene-setting, e.g. in a trendy Soho cafe) and then a few quotes. Little was added to the content of the book through these quotes, and I wasn't particularly surprised by any of the statements. It read just as a newspaper article would, as though he had a short word count and couldn't possibly provide more context. What were the points of these meetings? Are we meant to be surprised by their content? Do they offer insight not provided by other information presented? It didn't seem so.

Context, indeed, is precisely what this book was lacking. A reader would be forgiven for thinking that the post-war consensus in Britain appeared and that this was the 'real' British politics, and that the programmes & institutions that were established at that point were the norm. There is no wider global context (Britain was actually following trends that were common around the world, and still is following trends), and there is certainly no wider historical context. If we want to understand The Establishment in Britain, and if we want to assess the current situation, then we need to have a better understanding of Britain's history and the wider global economic and political contexts. While this book is well-written, I suspect that a broader synthesis is beyond Jones' capacity, as someone accustomed to analysing the present through a very narrow political lens and with a short-term view of the past. This is particularly strange, considering his university degrees are in history, but there's nothing in this book that demonstrates to me that a wider historical context has informed his assessment of "The Establishment". And the idea that the public is more aligned to Jones' politics than those of The Establishment has no basis in reality, or at least there is no proof provided in the book that would support this analysis.

Clearly there are many people who liked this book, and I think you would certainly like it if you aren't surrounded by people with left-leaning politics or if you aren't accustomed to reading and discussing politics a great deal. But if you do any of these things, then I think Jones won't be telling you anything that you haven't heard from your friend in the pub a million times before, and at least your friend will buy you a pint.
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Reading Progress

January 2, 2017 – Started Reading
January 2, 2017 – Shelved
January 12, 2017 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Alan (new) - rated it 1 star

Alan Draycott Exactly my view


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