In modern Britain, the working class has become an object of fear and ridicule. From Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard to the demonization of Jade Goody, media and politicians alike dismiss as feckless, criminalized and ignorant a vast, underprivileged swathe of society whose members have become stereotyped by one, hate-filled word: chavs.
In this acclaimed investigation, Owen Jones explores how the working class has gone from “salt of the earth” to “scum of the earth.” Exposing the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the chav caricature, he portrays a far more complex reality. The chav stereotype, he argues, is used by governments as a convenient figleaf to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems and to justify widening inequality.
Based on a wealth of original research, Chavs is a damning indictment of the media and political establishment and an illuminating, disturbing portrait of inequality and class hatred in modern Britain. This updated edition includes a new chapter exploring the causes and consequences of the UK riots in the summer of 2011.
A thought-provoking examination of a relatively new yet widespread derogatory characterization of the working class in Britain as a highly distinct social group of feckless, violence-prone bigots, called Chavs. Jones, a former trade union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher, traces the rise of this terminology through negative media representations of working-class people that is frequently elitist, hysterical, and disingenuous. He sees the source of this contempt in the decline of industry and manufacturing that accompanied the ongoing assault on trade unionism and the working classes from Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s through Tony Blair's New Labour and up to the present Conservative government. Out of this process, the author argues, the working-class's loss of voice and lack of representation of its views has become the face of Britain's decline. Jones does a fine job of revealing the snobbery and old-fashioned classism behind such intolerance and how the ever-widening gap between Britain's most privileged citizens and its most needful has exposed Tony Blair's claim about a new classless society as a myth. The author arguably perpetrates some myths of his own by his romanticizing of an idyllic working-class community forged through manual work and trade unionism. Nonetheless, as an indictment of the ideological destruction of the welfare stare it is edifying and disquieting in equal measure.