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Reckless Opportunists featured in the Guardian

on Sat, 12/30/2017 - 14:41

In his 2014 book The Establishment, Owen Jones explained how and why Britain’s unequal, class-ridden system would always prevail. It was written at a time when the elite seemed to be thriving, despite having recently helped to trash the global economy.

After a few lean years for “Davos man”, bank debt had effectively been nationalised. No one in power had gone to jail, while most of them seemed to be getting richer and richer. As Jones explained, the establishment was as dominant as ever.

Developments since then have sorely tested that view. After the vote for Brexit, David Cameron and George Osborne were suddenly cast adrift, while the Bank of England and captains of industry found themselves wondering who to support.

The Conservative party – their political party, the only one they had ever supported – was following a course of action they thought would wreck the economy. Sterling and the FTSE 100 index plummeted. Shareholders began revolting and bankers relocating.

A year later, the establishment seemed to be recovering once again. And then came the snap June 2017 election. The Conservatives, with all their resources and an initial 20-point poll lead, lost their majority.

Theresa May was outperformed by a badly dressed, pacifist republican with no money, no media support and a shadow cabinet that could fit in a phone box. The Tory party was left negotiating a Brexit deal with a dead duck leader, a hung parliament, and no idea of what outcomes the establishment wanted.

All of which suggests that it might be time to question whether the British establishment still functions as it once did.

Yes, some members of the elite have become very rich. They are still united in their fear and loathing of leftwing ideas and ordinary people. They are still highly skilled when it comes to pursuing their self-interest. Their decisions still have powerful consequences that are widely felt. But they seem to be less able to exert control or predict what those consequences will be.

As an academic studying how power operates, I have spent the past 20 years researching elite figures in five areas associated with the modern establishment: the media, the City, large corporations, the Whitehall civil service and the major political parties at Westminster.

After interviewing and observing more than 350 people working in or close to the top during that time, my sense of this evolving long-term crisis has become clearer.

I have come to believe that the establishment is no longer coherent or collective or competent. Its failings are not only causing larger schisms, inequalities and precariousness in Britain; they also threaten the very foundations of establishment rule itself.

Read full article here

Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishment
Aeron Davis
Manchester University Press
ISBN 9781526127280
Paperback, £9.99

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