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Owen Jones is sometimes described as ‘the Nigel Farage of the left’, which might be true if there were such a thing as ‘a UKIP of the left’. Still, the lack of a party to lead doesn’t stop him from getting his message across. For instance, the Guardian has an extract from his latest book entitled The Establishment: And how they get away with it:

“Today’s establishment is made up – as it has always been – of powerful groups that need to protect their position in a democracy in which almost the entire adult population has the right to vote. The establishment represents an attempt on behalf of these groups to ‘manage’ democracy, to make sure that it does not threaten their own interests.”

The use of the word ‘manage’ is revealing – Jones could have chosen ‘circumvent’ or ‘ignore’, but the idea that the establishment manages democracy is a comforting one for the left, because it suggests that socialism hasn’t been defeated fairly-and-squarely, but by the sinister manipulations of the powers-that-be:

“The terms of political debate are, in large part, dictated by a media controlled by a small number of exceptionally rich owners, while thinktanks and political parties are funded by wealthy individuals and corporate interests…  

“Prince Charles, the designated successor to the throne, has met with ministers at least three dozen times since the 2010 general election and is known to have strong opinions on issues such as the environment, the hunting ban, ‘alternative’ medicine and heritage…

“Even though Britain is one of the most irreligious countries on Earth… the Church of England still runs one in four primary and secondary schools in England, while its bishops sit in the House of Lords…”

In reality, we have a completely free choice over which newspapers we pay for and which political parties we vote for. Regrettably, we don’t have as much choice in regard to school places, but, when available, C of E and other faith schools have proved popular. The monarchy, too, owes its continuing existence to overwhelming public support.

Admittedly, the bishops and the Prince of Wales enjoy a privileged position of influence – but just look what they use it for: in the case of the Lords Spiritual it is to sound off like a job lot of Guardian columnists; while in the case of the Prince, three of the four hobby horses that Jones identifies could be comfortably stabled at Green Party HQ.

Nevertheless, Jones argues that that the establishment is united by a “shared ideology”:

“…a set of ideas that helps it to rationalise and justify its position and behaviour. Often described as ‘neoliberalism’, this ideology is based around a belief in so-called free markets…”

Of course, there are parts of the establishment that do preach free markets – even while sucking at the teats of government:

“Bailed-out banks; state-funded infrastructure… the topping up of wages too low to live on; numerous subsidies – all are examples of what could be described as a ‘socialism for the rich’ that marks today’s establishment.”

Then again, given that the state directly controls around half of this country’s GDP, there is ample opportunity for money-grabbing and power hoarding deep within the public sector.

And thus it is here that we find other parts of the establishment who espouse a very different, though equally self-serving, ideology – one which exalts top-down, monopolistic control of public resources and seeks to suppress choice and diversity.

17 comments for: Why Owen Jones is only half right about the ‘establishment’

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