Alternative Book Club – “The Establishment” by Owen Jones

The Establishment Owen Jones book cover
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Synopsis (back cover):

Behind our democracy lurks a powerful but unaccountable network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits in the process. In exposing this shadowy and complex system that dominates our lives, Owen Jones sets out on a journey into the heart of our Establishment, from the lobbies of Westminster to the newsrooms, boardrooms and trading rooms of Fleet Street and the City. Exposing the revolving doors that link these worlds, and the vested interests that bind them together, Jones shows how, in claiming to work on our behalf, the people at the top are doing precisely the opposite. In fact, they represent the biggest threat to our democracy today – and it is time they were challenged.

I bought this book spontaneously on one of my lunchtime jaunts into Waterstones because it intrigued me. I’m so glad I got a hard copy rather than waiting for the eBook because this is the sort of book you need to read a couple of times to fully comprehend each point Jones is making. It’s impossible to register all the complexities from one read through and I suspect the points he is making will still hold true and provide some value (to me at least) for years to come.

The fundamental gain from this book, to me personally, is that it highlights the importance of investigating and questioning assertions (whether these are made by politicians, the media, or your acquaintances) and the status quo. Questioning is something that I’ve grown up doing, but I realise the importance of encouraging it in myself and in the wider population.

The book reminded me of myself as a teenager. When I was younger I was a lot more politically active, always arguing, questioning, and shouting to make my views heard. In fact it was a bit of a hobby to attend demonstrations and protests. With age, I’ve toned it down a bit and become shy of my radical youthful antics. There’s so much I don’t understand about politics and policies – I like to see the full picture before throwing myself headlong into a campaign. I guess that’s made me less likely to shout about things that I feel are an injustice. There’s always someone with a counterargument. Reading this book made me want to stand up for my convictions and my gut feelings again, to join a protest group, become involved in grassroots activism and politics, and take part in demonstrations.

After reading some of the book’s negative reviews on Amazon, I do understand why some people dislike Jones as not going far enough in his anti-establishment views. However, I usually agree with his reasoning and think that he (and his arguments) come across favourably in a media that dumbs down a lot of current affairs issues.

Whether you love or hate Jones, if you want to understand modern British politics (and especially its relationship with the media) this book is a great starting point.

Have you read “The Establishment”? How did it leave you feeling? Did you enjoy it? Did it tell you anything new about the state of British politics? How has it influenced your views?

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