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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 fig leaf to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems and to justify widening inequality.

When Chavs was first published in 2011 it opened up the discussion of class in Britain. Then, in the public debate after the riots of that summer, Owen Jones’s thesis was proved right—the working class were the scapegoats for everything that was wrong with Britain.

This new edition includes a new chapter, reflecting on the overwhelming response to the book and the situation in Britain today.

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.”
  • “Timely … 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.’”
  • “Persuasively argued, and packed full of good reporting and useful information … Jones makes an important contribution to a revivified debate about class.”
  • “A work of passion, sympathy and moral grace.”
  • “A lively, well-reasoned and informative counterblast to the notion that Britain is now more or less a classless society.”
  • “Eloquent and impassioned.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Impassioned and thought-provoking … I genuinely hope his voice is heard.”
  • “Passionate, angry and articulate, Chavs rail[s] against the cynical slandering, by politicians and the media, of working people.”
  • “What makes Chavs a work of art is precisely [its] power of demonstrating the deceptive nature of the premise of an all-encompassing neo–middle class. Far from being classless, British society is defined by an effort to undermine and demonize the underprivileged.”
  • “A highly readable and very important book.”
  • “A long overdue look at the state of the class war in Britain today.”
  • “Reminds us of the potential political and economic power that exists largely untapped in British society.”

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