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Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Owen Jones

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215654,204 (3.86)10
Member:outside-jane
Title:Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class
Authors:Owen Jones
Info:Verso Books (2012), Edition: 2nd Revised edition, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:2012, Your library
Rating:***
Tags:politics, chavs, class system, thatcher, unions, miners, britain, england, predjudice

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Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones (2011)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A polemic that wears its leftwing politics unashamedly (and largely legitimately) on its sleeve. This is a solid review of the excesses of Thatcherism, how gravely it damaged working-class culture in the 1980s, and its upshot in Britain today - where a working-class rump has gone from being viewed as 'salt of the earth' to 'scum of the earth'. Some discussion of globalisation would have been useful (after all, Thatcher's economic policies and smashing of the trade unions didn't take place in a national vacuum), but overall this is a fairly convincing read. ( )
  Panopticon2 | Oct 5, 2014 |
I really enjoyed reading this thought-provoking book about discourses about working-class people and issues that they in particular face in British politics and media. I think it would have been even better if it had spent some time right at the beginning to discuss the range of meanings that the term "working class" has and how those might have shifted over time. ( )
  mari_reads | Oct 26, 2013 |
I think that this is a really important book. It explained to me how & why Labour has, to my mind, lost its way and how many of the problems we now have are still the legacy of Thatcherism. Reading it was like having the lens on our society cleaned. ( )
  awomanonabike | Oct 8, 2013 |
An outstanding read that isn't at its heart about chavs at all. During my visit to Manchester and Liverpool, I could observe, to my horror, the strange customs and dress code of the British working/under class. In contrast to Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, the working class is no longer invisible in the street. They even have reality TV show vehicles like "Geordie Shore" to beam their behaviors across the globe. In contrast to their visibility in life and in the media, politics is ignoring this lost generation completely.

Jones' claims that this is the consequence of the Thatcher revolution which broke the trade unions and conquered the mind of New Labour. Politics has ceased competing for working class votes. The working class which still accounts for over 50 percent of all jobs has answered by not voting at all (the so-called sofa option) or voting for protest candidates (who usually are ineffective and do not last long in politics). Owen's description of the English political landscape is smart and the absence of a nutty left to balance the nutty right a misfortune for sound governance. Between Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour, English voters are offered three flavors that may taste a bit different but contain much the same ingredients and perform whatever the City of London demands. No wonder that the areas that profit least from such politics such as Wales and Scotland increasingly seek to go their own way. I hope that the author will present a follow-up book soon. ( )
  jcbrunner | Feb 28, 2013 |
A very passionate call for the return of class politics, Jones' book will be read by nods of agreement by anyone with a flicker of belief in social justice. The only problem is of course that only the already converted will actually read this; but thats the same for all polemics.

Jones' argues that the working class have become acceptable targets for ridicule and victimisation and its hard to argue with him. Starting from Thatcher's destruction of British manufacturing as a price worth paying to emasculate the trade unions, the myth of "aspiration", the identification of the working class with lack of aspiration and ambition and indeed with being a "non working class" , the developing weasel narrative that poverty is mainly the fault of the poor, the domination of media channels by the wealthy, the lack of actual social mobility other than amongst the very rich - these are all themes Jones explores well and at length. Mainly I agree with him. The Shannon Matthews and Madeline McCann cases, and their very different treatments in the press based on the class of the families is particularly well handled

The reasons this book doesn't get 5 stars from me are partly literary and partly interpretative. From a literary perspective there is sone repetition here - basically we have heard all Jones' arguments (and are in agreement) by around page 150. The rest feels like filler or a restating of the obvious. Secondly he needs a greater range of sources - Larry Elliott and Polly Toynbee of The Guardian are quoted often, but their opinions are already well known. We need to hear from a greater rage of right wing sources too, rather than Simon Fuller and the eccentric David Davis. But his discussions with "ordinary people" are well done

From an interpretative point of view, I would pick a number of nits. I don't think football hooliganism - and its very important part in making the population scared of young working class men from industrial towns, even if many perpetrators were not working class - is given enough attention. Thatcher's crack down on football hooligans was applauded by most - and set up a political mood where crackdown was an acceptable and appropriate policy. The break up of the miners strike was a short step from there. I also disagree with his image of the mining village and working class towns based around one industry as social utopia - most miners hated mining and were very eager for their children not to follow their footsteps. The difference of course is that mining, factory work, what Jones call "decent jobs" were at least SOMETHING. Now they have been replaced by the shopping centre, the call centre or nothing at all. The was nothing wrong with getting rid of nasty, dirty jobs in unprofitable industries - the tragedy was to replace them with nothing.

But on the whole warmly recommended. It would be nice if some Conservatives would read it. But they wont ( )
2 vote Opinionated | Jul 15, 2012 |
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Owen Jonesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jáuregui, ÍñigoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 184467696X, Paperback)

A compelling investigation into the myth and reality of working-class life in contemporary Britain.

In modern Britain, the working class has become an object of fear and ridicule. From Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard to the demonization of Jade Goody, media and politicians alike dismiss as feckless, criminalized and ignorant a vast, underprivileged swathe of society whose members have become stereotyped by one, hate-filled word: chavs.

In this groundbreaking investigation, Owen Jones explores how the working class has gone from “salt of the earth” to “scum of the earth.” Exposing the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the chav caricature, one based on the media’s inexhaustible obsession with an indigent white underclass, he portrays a far more complex reality. Moving through Westminster’s lobbies and working-class communities from Dagenham to Dewsbury Moor, Jones reveals the increasing poverty and desperation of communities made precarious by wrenching social and industrial change, and all but abandoned by the aspirational, society-fragmenting policies of Thatcherism and New Labour. The chav stereotype, he argues, is used by governments as a convenient figleaf to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems, and to justify widening inequality.

Based on a wealth of original research, and wide-ranging interviews with media figures, political opinion-formers and workers, Chavs is a damning indictment of the media and political establishment, and an illuminating, disturbing portrait of inequality and class hatred in modern Britain.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:04 -0400)

This is a compelling investigation into the myth and reality of working-class life in contemporary Britain.

(summary from another edition)

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