Labour Research July 2011


Chavs: the demonization of the working class

Owen Jones, Verso, 256 pages, paperback, £14.99

Owen Jones explores how the working class has gone from salt of the earth to scum of the earth.

From Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard to the demonisation of Jade Goody, media and politicians alike dismiss as feckless, criminalised and ignorant a vast, underprivileged swathe of society whose members have become stereotyped by one, hate-filled word: chavs.Exposing the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the chav caricature, one based on the media’s inexhaustible obsession with an indigent white underclass, he portrays a far more complex reality.

Moving through Westminster’s lobbies, and through working-class towns from Dagenham to Dewsbury Moor, Jones reveals the increasing poverty and desperation of communities made precarious by wrenching social and industrial change, and all but abandoned by the aspirational, society-fragmenting policies of Thatcherism and New Labour.

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.

Chavs is a damning indictment of the media and political establishment, and an illuminating, disturbing portrait of inequality and class hatred in modern Britain.

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