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Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class Paperback – July 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“A passionate and well-documented denunciation of the upper-class contempt for the proles that has recently become so visible in the British class system.”—Eric Hobsbawm, Guardian

“A work of passion, sympathy and moral grace.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

“A bold attempt to rewind political orthodoxies; to reintroduce class as a political variable ... It moves in and out of postwar British history with great agility, weaving together complex questions of class, culture and identity with a lightness of touch. Jones torches the political class to great effect.”—Jon Cruddas, Book of the Week, Independent

“It is a timely book. The white working class seems to be the one group in society that it is still acceptable to sneer at, ridicule, even incite hatred against ... Forensically ... Jones seeks to explain how, thanks to politics, the working class has shifted from being regarded as ‘the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth.’”—Carol Midgley, Book of the Week, Times

“Superb and angry.”—Polly Toynbee, Guardian

“Seen in the light of the riots and the worldwide Occupy protests, his lucid analysis of a divided society appears uncannily prescient.”—Matthew Higgs, Artforum

“As with all the best polemics, a luminous anger backlights his prose.”—Economist

“Chavs is persuasively argued, and packed full of good reporting and useful information ... [Jones] makes an important contribution to a revivified debate about class.”—Lynsey Hanley, Guardian

“A lively, well-reasoned and informative counterblast to the notion that Britain is now more or less a classless society.”—Sean O'Hagan, Observer

“A trenchant exposure of our new class hatred and what lies behind it.”—John Carey, author of The Intellectuals and the Masses

“The stereotyping and hatred of the working class in Britain, documented so clearly by Owen Jones in this important book, should cause all to flinch. Reflecting our high levels of inequality, the stigmatization of the working class is a serious barrier to social justice and progressive change.”—Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level

“Eloquent and impassioned.”—Andrew Neather, Evening Standard

“Jones’s analysis of the condition of the working class is very astute ... A book like this is very much needed for the American scene, where the illusion is similarly perpetuated by the Democrats that the middle-class is all that matters, that everyone can aspire to join the middle-class or is already part of it .”—Anis Shivani, Huffington Post

“Everybody knows what a chav is, it seems, but no one is a chav. But then it’s a word unlike any other in current usage ... A new book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, by first-time author Owen Jones ... has thrown the word into the spotlight all over again.”—Carole Cadwalladr, Observer

“A blinding read.”—Suzanne Moore, Guardian

“[A] thought-provoking examination of a relatively new yet widespread derogatory characterization of the working class in Britain ... edifying and disquieting in equal measure.”—Publishers Weekly

“A fiery reminder of how the system has failed the poor.”—Peter Hoskin, Daily Beast

“Mr. Jones’s book is a cleareyed examination of the British class system, and it poses this brutal question: ‘How has hatred of working-class people become so socially acceptable?’ His timely answers combine wit, left-wing politics and outrage.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

About the Author

Owen Jones is a writer, commentator and activist. He writes frequently for the Guardian, Independent and New Statesman, and has worked in Parliament as a trade union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher, helping Labour plan backbench rebellions on issues ranging from civil liberties to workers’ rights. He lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (July 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184467696X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844676965
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,504,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Diziet on June 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
I hesitated to title this review 'Class War' - it seems so out-of-date, so 'old Labour'. But that is what this book is about. It is about the sustained economic, social and ideological attack on the majority of the population of this country.

The idea of 'chavs' (US equivalent probably 'trailer trash') is, these days, so pervasive that as I read the first few chapters, I had my doubts. The book seemed merely an apologia for a post-industrial lumpenproletariat, a group of alienated misfits beyond the reach of the rest of society. But Jones' analysis is far wider, deeper and more powerful than that and deserves as wide an audience as possible.

The book starts with a shocking comparison between the media coverage of Shannon Matthews and Madeleine McCann. The point is forcefully made that the coverage clearly showed a deep-rooted class prejudice - and ignorance. The McCann's come from the same class as the majority of journalists, leader writers and 'opinion formers'. The same journalists have virtually no experience of the world of Shannon Matthews. Jones make the point in a quote from Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror:

'Increasingly, the lives of journalists have become divorced from those of the rest of us. 'I can't think of a national newspaper editor with school-age kids who has them in a state school,' [Maguire] reflects. 'On top of that, most journalists at those levels are given private medical insurance. So you're kind of taken out of everyday life.' (P27)

Jones continues:

'More than anything, it is this ignorance of working-class life that explains how Karen Matthews became a template for people living in working-class communities.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on August 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
This brilliant book examines the rise of ruling class hatred of the British working class. Rubbishing the working class goes hand in hand with worship of capital and capitalists.

Who are the working class? Those who have to sell their labour power to live - the vast majority of the British people. We are not defined by our level of income, education or housing.

Jones writes, "At the root of the demonization of working class people is the legacy of a very British class war." Thatcher attacked the working class, trying to destroy our industry, our services, our trade unions, communities and values. As Sir Alan Budd, then the Treasury's chief economist, said, "unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes."

Thatcher said, "Class is a Communist concept", "Morality is personal" and "poverty is not material but behavioural." The Labour Party and the media have embraced these themes.

Britain has vast and growing inequality. In 2010, the richest 1,000 got a record 30 per cent richer in just one year. Manufacturing jobs are being destroyed, and only part-time and/or service jobs are offered instead. In 2008, the median manufacturing wage was £24,343, in services the median was £20,000. Poverty already affects 13.5 million of us, more than 20 per cent of the population. British workers now work longer hours, 41.4 a week, than workers in any other EU member countries save Rumania and Bulgaria.

Under Labour the number of sports and social clubs fell by 55 per cent, post offices by 39 per cent, swimming pools by 21 per cent and libraries by 7 per cent; the number of betting shops rose by 39 per cent and casinos by 27 per cent.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By charles t smith on March 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Owen Jones does an excellent job of documenting the destruction of the British working class beginning with Thatcher through to today. The similarities between Thatcher's administration and Reagan's administration makes one wonder if the international ruling class had worked together to break the Unions and decimate the working class. Thatcher broke the strongest Union in England after the miners one year strike ended in defeat (1984-1985) and Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controllers Union when they went on strike in 1981 and were permanently fired from their jobs. These Union defeats mark the beginning destruction of organized labor in both countries. Today the new mantra is, "We are all middle class." The media no longer mentions the working class and on occasion they pay lip service to the poor and destitute with "human interest" stories. Not a pretty picture. Short of a revolution the majority of residents of both countries will have to live with diminishing expectations. There can be no economic turnaround when both countries are dependent on consumerism and the population has less and less money to spend. The rich live better than royalty ever did while most of us working folks live like serfs with flat screen TV's. Please do read this book and ponder the ramifications of what Mr. Owens is documenting. Even if you have a safety net what will happen to you when the society around you crumbles as it did in Detroit, parts of Florida and east Oakland? Mr. Jones included this poem towards the end of the book. Think about it. It is our way out.

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number -

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you -

Ye are many - they are few.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Call to Freedom"
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