Appearing on BBC Question Time last night, Owen Jones attacked the government's Health Reform Bill, stating that the "Tories have absolutely no mandate for what they're doing to our NHS", as well as slamming New Labour for "laying the foundations" for the privatisation of the health service.
As the year draws to a close, newspapers have been asking the great and the good which books have most impressed them in 2011. Here we have collected the Verso books that were featured.
In the New Statesman, Guardian and Observer Books of the Year round ups, Hari Kunzru selected two Verso books as standing out from other books published this year. He explained the appeal of the titles to the New Statesman:
With the Occupy movement gaining ground throughout the world, McKenzie Wark's smart overview of the situationist movement, The Beach Beneath the Street: the Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International, feels particularly timely. For years, Laura Oldfield Ford, who is very influenced by situationism, has produced a fanzine, based on her derives around London, with words and beautiful, confrontational line drawings of the city's forgotten people and neglected places. Now, Savage Messiah has been collected in book form. It is a wake-up call to anyone who can only see modern cities through the lens of gentrification.
In the Guardian feature on the Best Books of 2011, a number of Verso titles were selected by those asked.
Among the 2011 books that came my way I particularly welcomed Owen Jones's Chavs, 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.
I loved two very different books of criticism...[one was] Owen Hatherley's furiously pro-Modernist A Guide to the New Ruins of Britain
Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo stimulatingly uncovers the contradictions of an ideology that is much too self-righteously invoked.
I'm reading Chris Harman's A People's History of the World. It's really helpful to zoom out from time to time when you're living massive events at very close quarters.
Few North American readers will be familiar with the derogatory term chavs, as described by Owen Jones in his latest book, but they are no doubt well versed in the collective consciousness of the subtitle 'The Demonization of the Working Class.' The idea of "welfare queens" being an almost universal pejorative across the neoliberal universe. Pulitzer Prize winning writer Connie Schultz describes the term as the rough equivalent of North America's "trailer trash" in a review of Chavs in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Jones, she writes,
is at his strongest when he reports on real events, such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's methodical dissembling of her country's manufacturing base. He also deftly dissects how British media increasingly promote a disregard for the real lives of the underprivileged.
Under a headline stating that “a British class war is raging,” the New York Times recently published a glowing review of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, accompanied by a lengthy excerpt from the same book.
Reviewer Dwight Garner describes author Owen Jones as “hideously talented”:
Reading Chavs, I often cursed aloud as if I’d banged my thumb with a mallet, which is how I express keen literary pleasure until I can arrive at something more coherent to say.
In his 4th of July special for the Huffington Post, "20 Of The Best Books From Independent Presses You Should Know About," Anis Shivani took Independence Day as an occasion to big up indie presses and their latest offerings. Included on his list is Owen Jones' Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, which is praised for its astute analysis of the working class and for the parallels it highlights between US and UK attitudes to middle-class aspirations and social mobility.
Owen Jones writes about the demonization of the British working class, pointing to a new middle-class license to abuse them in public, the Chavs terminology being an example of a wider phenomenon. Jones wonders how it became possible for the Labor Party to join in the conservative (Thatcherite) condemnation of supposedly lazy, irresponsible, and bigoted working men and women, and how it was that the working class fell out of progressive discourse altogether (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).