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Britain's Power Elites [Hardcover]

Hywel Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Mar 2006
Since 1979 this country has undergone a revolution. It was a very British affair - certainly no tanks on the streets and precious little violent agitation. But under first Thatcher then Blair, the post-war consensus has given way to a brand-new political order. The language of global competition, of historical inevitability and of national destiny has provided cover for a power grab more complete and ruthless than any since the English Civil War. The discretion with which this has been accomplished has left commentators baffled. Yet one thing is clear. Ironically, set against the fantasies of the heritage industry, Victorian, even Georgian, inequalities of wealth and status are back, though the methods used to justify them have changed. Hywel Williams offers an exhilarating new analysis. The order that once governed Britain is dead, and he reveals the perpetrator. Alone among imperial cadres, the capital's money men survive. They have grasped the new opportunities offered to capital, and seen off or subverted all possible threats to their freedom. The City has killed its rivals, and everyone up until now has been too polite to mention it. It is time to be clear about exactly who does run this place.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (30 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845291697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845291693
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 820,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A compelling read...brilliant description and analysis of what passes for modern Britain. -- The Herald Glasgow Sat 29 April

A vivid and detailed picture of the grotesque concentration of
power and wealth in this country.I recommend this book unreservedly -- Lobster

Britain's Power Elites is an eye-opener. -- Western Mail, 22 April

About the Author

Hywel Williams was a political adviser to John Redwood during the Major Administration. He now writes a regular column for the Guardian. His previous books include Guilty Men: Conservative Government 1992-1997 and Cassell's Chronology of World History.

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of Britain's ruling class 3 Aug 2006
This extraordinary book by Hywel Williams, a historian, journalist and broadcaster, vividly presents the new, post-1979 shape of the British ruling class. Unlike most surveys of Britain, by for example, Anthony Sampson, Will Hutton or Jeremy Paxman, he concludes that there is indeed a ruling class in Britain, though he swaddles this in the misleading phrase `power elites'.

He shows how this class is abandoning Britain and so is not a `British' class any more: "Britain, increasingly, has an elite whose attitudes are `offshore' and disconnected from the business of being British." They "have largely lost any sense of Britain as a national project and are largely disengaged from it."

He depicts the political elite, now more centralised than ever before in the House of Commons. He shows how governments and parliamentary parties all embrace the interests of finance capital. He also examines the professional elites, especially business consultants, IT firms, university vice-chancellors and City lawyers.

But the core of this book, as of the ruling class, is the financial and business elite. Williams shows us "the core competence of the City of London: reckless gambling on the one hand and well-spoken, beautifully suited, sharp practice on the other." He notes, "The rest of London - indeed the rest of Britain - could disappear tomorrow and the City would carry on functioning quite happily."

He shows how globalised capital, with its compulsory free movements of capital and labour, has produced ever greater wealth at one pole of society. In 2002, Britain's richest 5% owned 43% of Britain's total wealth, up from 36% in 1986, and they owned 62% of disposable wealth (i.e. less the value of homes), up from 46% in 1986.
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5.0 out of 5 stars why the rich get richer and the poor stay poor 6 Sep 2014
For me this is a book that is essential reading, as a record of the run up to the 2008 financial crash, of which the main surprise was that it was a surprise to so many. Post crash, and, in 2014, arguably pre-recovery, some of the clues for overcoming the barriers for progress lie in this book.
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