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Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class Paperback – 1 May 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844678644
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844678648
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Superb and angry.' --Polly Toynbee, Guardian

'A work of passion, sympathy and moral grace.' --Dwight Garner, New York Times

'Persuasively argued, and packed full of good reporting and useful information - [Jones] makes an important contribution to a revivified debate about class.' Lynsey Hanley, Guardian

'A timely book.' Book of the Week, The Times

'A blinding read.' Suzanne Moore, Guardian

'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.' Jon Cruddas, Book of the Week, Independent

'A lively, well-reasoned and informative counterblast to the notion that Britain is now more or less a classless society.' --Sean O'Hagan, Observer

About the Author

OWEN JONES has worked in the British Parliament as a trade union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jazzrook TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This well-argued and powerful book by Owen Jones demolishes the myth that Britain is a classless society and expands on a quote from Observer columnist, Nick Cohen: "To say class doesn't matter in Britain is like saying wine doesn't matter in France".
Jones explains how the label 'chav' has been used by rightwing commentators to caricature the working class as lazy, feckless and violent.
With numerous millionaires in the current Tory-led coalition cabinet and ever-increasing levels of inequality this important and enlightening book on the "invisible prison" of the British class system deserves to be widely read.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Young Offender on 24 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
Owen Jones's book starts from a false premise - that `chav' and `working class' are synonymous. Chavs are a particular subset of a much broader social stratum. Moreover, while many may mock aspects of chav culture (the Burberry cap, the status Staffy, calling offspring after footballers, etc.), to poke fun is not to demonise - any more than to find the `toffs' of 'Made in Chelsea' absurd is actively to despise them.

If I were to dislike a group of people for the accident of their birth into underprivileged circumstances, that really would be contemptible. However, it seems more reasonable to dislike the freely chosen attitudes and behaviours of a smaller chav subset - viz. feckless dependency and anti-social activity which makes others' lives (often their working class neighbours) a misery. Remarkably similar characteristics are shown by a subset of the upper class, like the Bullingdon Club yahoos depicted in the recent play 'Posh': both groups think the world owes them a living, and both show cavalier disregard for anyone with the misfortune to be in their way. Can I not deplore these attributes, whoever is exhibiting them, without being accused of class hate?
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Simon Scarrow on 31 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
I've been wanting to read this for a while, and have finally got round to it. It's an interesting book and very timely in the effort that Jones is making to rescue the depiction of the poor from the clutches of the right wing. Having read this back to back with The Shock Doctrine (a far more disturbing and wide-ranging book) I feel suitably angry and want to do something about it, but frustrated at the lack of a viable strategy for tackling those heartless bastards who run the world.

The author is an angry young man, and that means that the book frequently has a strident edge and is inclined to bang home the same statistics and arguments again and again. His target audience is quite clearly the lay socialist and he lets us have it with both barrels. That's no bad thing, but it tends to position his argument in the same tradition of easy claims and blinkered ideology that he so frequently criticises on the other side. No sensible reader would disagree that the mass media and their political lickspittle always argue from the specific to the general in their attacks on the working class. The likes of Shannon Matthews, as Jones points out very effectively, are always presented as typical of a wider demographic. Yet Jones plays the same game when he talks of the rich and powerful, and even the 'middle class', as if they were homogenous. It's a self-defeating rhetorical strategy and disappointingly obvious.

Part of the problem of the book is that Jones buys into the class labels he writes about too easily. Even in the preface he provides two opinion polls one of which gives a result of over half the population self-classifying as working class, while the second poll has 71 percent identifying themselves as middle class.
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