The Establishment by Owen Jones

This provocative call for a democratic revolution in the UK is a pleasure to read. Jones used his journalistic powers to get members of the establishment to talk about the shared values which tend to dominate sections of the British elite. However, the analysis contained several important silences and contradictions.

Firstly, the text does not dwell on the mechanisms which have historically blocked internal democracy within the Labour Party. As a result, the faction which has benefited directly from corporate funding is let off the hook. Secondly, the elite is attacked for endorsing economic liberalism while also being criticised for using the state to promote capitalism. Thirdly, using the establishment as a concept with which to criticise policy is revealed to be arbitrary because which parts of society belong to the elite depends on the point of view of the theorist.

A rigorous philosophical approach would have involved focusing on society as a whole. It would have considered in detail how ordinary people are implicated in the maintenance of the hegemony of others. Nevertheless, Jones should be praised for stimulating debate as a public intellectual. Further, he should be recognised for realising a key fact about contemporary politics:

“Without a coherent alternative, widespread resignation will only continue.”




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