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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (318 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 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.

'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. Governments have tried to move away from the ideas of the immediate post -war period, such as the use of redistributive tax measures and improved welfare access to support the less well off and moved the agenda on ideas associated with the encouragement of enterprise, home ownership and education as a spur to greater individual, rather then collective endeavour.
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700 of 786 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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr D G Rodwell on 21 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
Oh dear, how this book is heavy on prejudice and light on perspective. Whereas there is much to commend, especially in the records of interviews with representatives of governments past and present as well as with key individuals in desperately affected communities, there are serious lapses of historical balance. Much can be placed at the door of Thatcher and Blair, but many of the bald statements simply don’t stack up.
For example: ‘the long lingering demise of the industrial working class begun […] with Thatcher’ (p.140), and ‘the industrial collapse that was first unleashed by Thatcher’ (p.196), totally ignores the disintegration of the British Empire and associated trading links from the First World War onwards. Liverpool Docks. for example closed in the 1970s, to be superseded by largely automated container ports serving the Atlantic and Europe. Neither Thatcher nor Blair had anything to with these global trends
And social engineering (p.34) was hardly invented by Thatcher. The middle class bias, with its prejudice for nuclear rather than extended families, underpinned much that characterised the ‘Great British Housing Disaster’, instigated pre-WWI, reaching his apogee post-1945, and supported by successive governments of all shades and colours. Please source:
Burns, Wilfred, New Towns for Old: The Technique of Urban Renewal, HMSO, London (1963) (p.93): “One result of slum clearance is that a considerable movement of people takes place over long distances, with devastating effect on the social grouping built up over the years. But, one might argue, this is a good thing when we are dealing with people who have no initiative or civic pride.
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