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Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class

Bestselling 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 acclaimed 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, he portrays a far more complex reality. 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, Chavs is a damning indictment of the media and political establishment and an illuminating, disturbing portrait of inequality and class hatred in modern Britain. This updated edition includes a new chapter exploring the causes and consequences of the UK riots in the summer of 2011.

 

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.”
  • “A work of passion, sympathy and moral grace.”
  • “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.”
  • “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'.”
  • “Superb and angry.”
  • “Seen in the light of the riots and the worldwide Occupy protests, his lucid analysis of a divided society appears uncannily prescient.”
  • “As with all the best polemics, a luminous anger backlights his prose.”
  • “Chavs is persuasively argued, and packed full of good reporting and useful information... [Jones] makes an important contribution to a revivified debate about class.”
  • “A lively, well-reasoned and informative counterblast to the notion that Britain is now more or less a classless society.”
  • “A trenchant exposure of our new class hatred and what lies behind it.”
  • “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.”
  • “Eloquent and impassioned.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “A blinding read.”
  • “[A] thought-provoking examination of a relatively new yet widespread derogatory characterization of the working class in Britain ... edifying and disquieting in equal measure.”
  • “A fiery reminder of how the system has failed the poor.”
  • “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.”

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