The Establishment – Owen Jones

I have just finished reading, actually more like breezing, through Owen Jones’s The Establishment. It was a quick, pulsating read. For those of us well versed in critical theory, the book’s thesis and expositions are hardly new or revelatory; it solidifies the belief of how the power of few overwhelmingly shapes the destiny of a lot more. The book’s core argument is that over the past three decades, we have seen the rise and gradual entrenchment of a class of individuals who through their ideas, beliefs, sustained and prolific agency have captured the corridors of power in Westminster and have used that to enrich themselves and their preserves to the detriment of the larger public good. This entrenchment has become so pervasive that it is, arguably, all but impossible to dislodge. One can pick on the selective pieces of cases, stories, individuals that Jones relies on to flesh out his core argument. Jones looks at and draws from institutions that form what he claims to be the core parts of the establishment – government, political class, media, police force, bankers and the national security establishment. Through individual anecdotes and cases coupled with a cogent empirical examination of these networks or nexus and how they are formed, Jones makes his case for the pervasive power base that forms the center of power in Britain. These actors also represent and propagate a powerful ideology – ‘neoliberalism’ epitomised by unyielding belief in the power of markets to organise public life and allocate resources. What follows is a polemic that is, in parts, unputdownable. Although Jones is less successful at marking where these core ideas of the establishment came from – Mont Pelerin Society and their Hayekian acolytes that have achieved unparalleled success after decades of neglect across the atlantic. Although the rise of Thatcher and Blair represent key conjunctures, one needs to more carefully examine the social politics within the country and the opportunities it afforded to the political class before they rammed through market friendly policies. The chapters on the police force and media are damning. Not only have they caved to those in power but have done so in insidious ways. The Establishment is a must read to understand modern Britain politics at its most depraved state.


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