Monday, July 30, 2012
In this new book, published by Verso, Owen Jones analyses the hidden agendas in the Britain of Thatcher-Blair-Cameron; however it is applicable to American politics as well, where, as one commentator points out, in the U.S. "the illusion is similarly perpetuated...that the middle class is all that matters." Jones explores how the working class has gone from 'salt of the earth' to 'scum of the earth' and as Eric Hobsbawm notes in his praise of the book, it is "passionate and well-documented." Jones writes that "the demonization of the working class is the ridiculing of the conquered by the conqueror....the fashionable idea that people at the bottom deserve their lot in life....Get rid of all the cleaners, rubbish collectors, bus drivers, supermarket checkout staff and secretaries, for example, and society would quickly grind to a halt. On the other hand, if we woke up one morning to find that all the highly paid advertising executives, management consultants and private equity directors had disappeared, society would go on much as it did before: in a lot of cases, probably quite a bit better." The demonization was "an offensive against working-class communities, industries, values and institutions. No longer was being working class something to be proud of: it was something to escape from, never mind to celebrate. The wealthy were adulated. All were now encouraged to scramble up the social ladder, and be defined by how much they owned. This vision did not come from nowhere. It was the culmination of a class war. Those who were poor or unemployed had no one to blame but themselves. Old working-class values, like solidarity, were replaced by dog-eat-dog individualism." The ideal was "a property-owning individual who looked after themselves, their family, and no one else. Aspiration meant yearning for a bigger car or a bigger house." Working-class communities "were seen as the left-behinds, the remnants of an old world that had been trampled on by the inevitable march of history. There was to be no sympathy for them: on the contrary, they were to be caricatured and despised."