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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 (340 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 437 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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 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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729 of 814 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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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Chris on 27 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
What first surprised me about this book was the use of the term chavs to describe working class people as a whole. I discussed it with a wide range of friends and family, scattered across the country, and they all agreed: chavs may be working class, but not all working class are chavs. I think the description of a chav on Wikipedia gives a very complete and accurate picture of what a chav is - or at least what I and friends and family perceive as a chav. They are one element in the working class, just as travellers for example are another element in the working class. I would argue that the vast majority of working class people - employed, unemployed, single, married, pregnant, not pregnant, on benefits, not on benefits, anything, not on anything - are not chavs at all. To describe them as such is as bad as coralling together the entire middle class (for sake of argument those in professional and managerial occupations) and describing them all as toffs.
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329 of 402 people found the following review helpful By Diziet on 6 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hesitated to title this review 'Class War' - it seems so out-of-date, so 'old Labour'. But that is what this book is about. It is about the sustained economic, social and ideological attack on the majority of the population of this country.

The idea of 'chavs' is, these days, so pervasive that as I read the first few chapters, I had my doubts. The book seemed merely an apologia for a post-industrial lumpenproletariat, a group of alienated misfits beyond the reach of the rest of society. But Jones' analysis is far wider, deeper and more powerful than that and deserves as wide an audience as possible.

The book starts with a shocking comparison between the media coverage of Shannon Matthews and Madeleine McCann. The point is forcefully made that the coverage clearly showed a deep-rooted class prejudice - and ignorance. The McCann's come from the same class as the majority of journalists, leader writers and 'opinion formers'. The same journalists have virtually no experience of the world of Shannon Matthews. Jones makes the point in a quote from Kevin Maguire of the Mirror:

'Increasingly, the lives of journalists have become divorced from those of the rest of us. 'I can't think of a national newspaper editor with school-age kids who has them in a state school,' [Maguire] reflects. 'On top of that, most journalists at those levels are given private medical insurance. So you're kind of taken out of everyday life.' (P27)

Jones continues:

'More than anything, it is this ignorance of working-class life that explains how Karen Matthews became a template for people living in working-class communities.
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