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Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class Paperback – 6 Jun 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (6 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184467696X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844676965
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (338 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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. --Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level

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, over 304 pages, 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'. --Carol Midgley, Times

Superb and angry. --Polly Toynbee - Guardian

About the Author

OWEN JONES has worked in the British Parliament as a trade union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher. He is currently writing a PhD on the history of blue-collar America and the rise of the New Right. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By os TOP 500 REVIEWER on 31 May 2013
Format: Paperback
'Chavs' is an important and readable book `Chavs' is shorthand for people who have been stigmatised as being idle, undeserving and socially undesirable. Its main thesis is that the returns to labour compared with the returns to capital have diverged sharply over the last 30/40 years, resulting in a vastly unequal society. A trend that successive governments, Conservative and Labour governments have both conspired to encourage by a variety policy tools: mostly involving the tax and benefit system, council house sales, deregulation of financial markets and regular union 'bashing', to either help the rich to a bigger slice of the pie or deny those lower down the scale their former share of the goodies. Couple these policies with an ongoing propaganda war whose sole aim was to demonise, discredit and isolate the 'lower' classes and all their works and you effectively have a 'class war'.

'Chavs' could be read as one long anti-Thatcher rant. A more positive reading of the book would be to see it as a warning for the future. By creating an economic and social underclass, we are storing up the seeds for failure and extremism as a result of allowing the rich to 'get away with it' and the poor to 'pick up the tab' in the form of higher taxes, low wages and uncertainty of employment. Such great inequality in terms of wealth, income and opportunity is a form of injustice that will create problems that will only become more entrenched in society with time.
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719 of 805 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Pittard on 8 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
I've read some remarkable reviews of this book in the press, most of which comment on how acutely it makes its argument, the forensic detail with which Jones writes, and the wonderful style he employs. Unfortunately, I didn't see much of any of these, and ultimately found this book frustrating. Not because I disagreed with the overall argument - far from it - but rather because at times it's a blunt analysis framed bluntly. It left me feeling that we on the left really need a much better voice than this.

First, the good points, of which there are some. Jones starts promisingly with some astute points about Dewsbury and how it differs from the media representation during the Shannon Matthews case. An early chapter on 1980s contexts for modern class politics is passionate and useful, if something of a primer for those who have never heard of the miners' strike. The real value of the book lies in its critique of the concept of meritocracy, in a passage that will challenge the thinking of many. Jones also effectively deploys some useful statistics and makes some valuable observations about the effects of the misperception of the median salary (£21,000, since you ask, although a better editor would have meant that we didn't have to be told this at least four times).

These points aside, however, the rest of the book is seriously undermined by three major problems:

Firstly, there's the way in which the book presents the working class themselves. Jones is right to challenge the conservative assumption that the working class remain so through choice, a lack of ambition, aptitude, and so on. The problem, however, is that Jones goes too far in the other direction, to the extent that the working class seem to be little more than passive economic victims.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Midgley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback
Owen Jones' book is fundamentally flawed for two reasons. Firstly, the title doesn't make sense - not only because 'chav' does not mean the same as 'working class', but also because the working classes are not demonised, or at least not by the vast majority of British people.

Let's take the pejorative term 'chav' for a start. To me, it refers to someone who is probably young, probably but not necessarily male, and who exhibits some or all of the following behaviour: loud-mouthed, ill-mannered, ignorant, antisocial, destructive, criminal, racially prejudiced; abusive of or violent towards others, especially anyone vulnerable, old, disabled or handicapped, to anyone who is of a different race, colour or culture or from the next street, another town or a different part of town, and to supporters of rival football teams. That's probably enough to be going on with but suffice to say that, while many 'chavs' may be working class, the great majority of working class people are not chavs. So the two terms are entirely different.

Next, the working classes are not demonised in our society - certainly not in the sense of being criticised, condemned or abused as a group. OK, the author is right about some things - our social and economic system is very unfair, the poor have an extremely hard time, successive governments should be putting things right and have failed to do so. But it's not because the middle classes are lousy and selfish; some of us are, but we're not by definition rotten as a group any more than the working classes are. The author also insists on trying to define exactly who is working class and who isn't, based on such factors as occupation and income, but his definitions don't really work and he ties himself in knots in the attempt.
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