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Who Runs This Place?: The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century Hardcover – 12 Apr 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 12 Apr 2004
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; 1st Edition edition (12 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719565642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719565649
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 24.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 434,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A compelling analysis of power (The Times)

Britain's anatomy is...illuminated by the unmatched politico-social lucidity of a fine mind...a wonderfully dismaying book (Nadine Gordimer, Times Literary Supplement)

A contemporary history with a strong sense of historical change (John Hudson, BBC History)

No one has matched Sampson's combination of analysis, networking and sharp drafting ... A model of its kind (Times Higher Education Supplement)

An exhilarating air of authority... [thanks to] its author's happy and unusual combination of wisdom and research (Mail on Sunday)

A superb diagnosis... enormously readable, containing a wealth of entertaining apercus and digressions... [and] a wit that is as sharp as his scalpel (New Statesman)

An impressive and immediate air of gravitas... Sampson is a clear thinker who manages to gently ease the reader through a vast and complex subject (Scotland on Sunday)

He has stood back from the trees and given us a view of the wood. He is right to find it rotten (Sunday Times)

[Samspson] comes shrewdly at Mr Blair from an unprotected flank (Daily Telegraph)

Sampson sees power clearly and calmly, as Trollope or Galsworthy did; and it is not a pretty sight...He comes shrewdly at Mr Blair from an unprotected flank (Daily Telegraph)

This is a wise, perceptive and not unduly pessimistic book (The Spectator)

Sampson succeeds in providing an exhaustive answer to the question he has set himself in the title (The Guardian)

The best books reveal facts which readers can barely believe that they did not know. Who Runs This Place? contains such revelations in abundance (The Observer)

Brilliantly written and deeply sobering (JG Ballard, Guardian)

Sampson's overview of today's corrupt, nepotistic, celebrity-obsessed Britain makes for fascinating, if depressing, reading (Daily Telegraph)

A coherent critique about the nature of political power in British society (The Scotsman)

His lucid prose dissects the new centres of power... A bracing read (JG Ballard, Daily Telegraph)

An important book, raising an increasingly urgent set of questions about who has the power in Tony Blair's Britain, and for whom they exercise it. (The Spokesman manifesto 50)

The leap this books asks us to make - the comparison between the Britain of 1962 and that of 2004 - is useful and hugely instructive. (guardian)

Indefatigable... in researching information and marshalling facts (The Evening Standard)

This anatomy dissects an old organism still alive and diseased with new secrets (The Times)

Many shrewd and informative chapters (Sunday Telegraph)

Sampson's last book is up there with his best (Evening Standard)

With his finely honed abilities to trace influences and links he unravels the inner workings of the Blairite Establishment with its old-boy network as well as those of modern British corporate life. (Contemporary Review)

Sampson blows away the smoke that obscures British democracy and ...dissects an old organism still alive and diseased with new secrets. (The Times)

Anthony Sampson's Who Runs This Place? Asks New Labour's central question. (Observer)

Book Description

Who holds power? How do they use it? Are they accountable?: the questions addressed in this unflinching exposé of power in Britain.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Anthony Sampson died just after updating "Who Runs This Place" to the end of 2004. The book itself is an update of his 1962 "Anatomy Of Britain".
Sampson's goal was ambitious - to draw a map of the institutions that really mattered in Britain and trace the threads of influence and power that flowed between them, and to try to understand how things really got done. As an analysis of parliament, the political machine, the civil service, and "the Establishment", his work has rarely been bettered - Jeremy Paxman provided a sort of more anecdotal and perhaps entertaining analysis of the Establishment as it stood in the early 90s in "Friends In High Places", but Sampson's revised work is a masterpiece.
Unlike the earlier versions of the book, Sampson has several axes to grind rather conspicuously in this edition. His own politics surface occasionally - he was a founder Social Democrat, and it's clear that his own sympathies are somewhere to the Left of the Blair government. His analysis of parliament and the political parties is sobering -- he sees politics as being fundamentally in decline, with the two major parties re-invented as essentially support machines for presidential-style Prime Ministers or leaders of the opposition; politics as a career is seen as a refuge for talentless, visionless machine politicians from all ends of the spectrum, and the Liberal Democrats are seen as a regional irrelevance.
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Format: Hardcover
Anthony Sampson has been writing about 'The Establishment' - or the 'Anti-Establishment' Establishment as he might now call it - for over 40 years.
Not only is he unbelievably well-informed - that one person is able to write in such depth about no less than 24 tentacles to the governance of Britain is in itself worthy of five stars - but he is also able to make very informative comparisons going back to 1962, to demonstrate both the changes that have occurred, and the costs to democracy that have been involved.
Having first voted in the 1959 election, which returned SuperMac with a majority of over 100, it is possible to share Sampson's dismay at the decline that has taken place.
During the course of that campaign I attended meetings in Birmingham addressed by both Harold Macmillan, and a few days later, Hugh Gaitskell.
Looking back, the then lack of security now beggars belief, coupled to the fact that, today, only loyal acolytes would get into the hall.
That election was, I believe, the first in which TV played a part. As Sampson now shows, the role of TV is now all-embracing, and offers party leaders much more control of the presentation of the message.
Of particular interest is the Venn diagram - inside the front and back covers - in which Sampson shows how the various components of the Establishment relate to each other. At either end are two huge circles, on the left Media, and on the right The Rich.
The Prime Minister looms large, Parliament and Cabinet have to be searched for, and Political Parties are of even smaller significance.
All this is fleshed-out in great detail in the book's 24 chapters, and Chapter 25 - Who Runs This Place - is a detailed and perceptive summary.
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Format: Hardcover
I came to England in 1963, a year after the first Anatomy was published. At the Royal Military Academy we were showered with the book; a slight surprise as it wasnt exactly pro Establishment stuff. But everyone had it. Everyone read it. It was clearly a revelation, even to those, unlike me, who had been born, brought up and educated here in the UK. Being the stranger to England that I was, what I read in the first Anatomy
was a tale of strange and far off things of which I knew little or nothing,of Palaces and Princes,of Archbishops and Merchant Bankers, of MP's and Lords. They were like half mythical beings, hidden in distant mists.But over the years I became involved with each of the institutions described in Anthony Sampson's wonderful book. It and its subsequent updates have been an invaluable guide to me as I navigated the strange deeps and shallows of English institutional life.
Now, this elegent, eclectic reporter has come back with what amounts to a sociological masterpiece. It is the coolest, clearest history of the last 40 years in Britain yet published, written with a masterley touch, quite unchanged from the touch Anthony Sampson showed all those years ago. He is never uncritical, but his critique is logical, rational and above all non partisan. That is its grandeour. And what a perspective. The basics defined in a bestseller over 40 years ago, and now the linking of those basic discoveries with the current status quo. Probing, amusing, but always with that touch of the scalpel that discloses the weakness behind the PR and the, well, there is only one word for it, bull***t, so common in public life nowadays.
Perhaps the books strongest recommendation is it's readibility. It is simply unputdownable.
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