This article was originally published to The Edge on 13th August 2015
The eponymous entity of Owen Jones’ book is defined by him at the outset. It is not some cloak and daggers conspiracy organisation, but more similar to a collective noun for the attitudes of people in power who want to keep it that way and the people and tools used to help them. An establishment of Rupert Murdochs, for linguistic reference. This information is important because it’s perhaps the best way to get the people who maybe need this book the most to read it. And that’s the people who voted for the Conservative government.
This is more than just an important book to read however; it’s an emotional one. As summer reading goes, it’s one of the most vital experiences you can have. Jones’ writing may be factual, but it isn’t staid. He knows how to draw both logical conclusions and emotional ones that affect the reader. The synthesis of in-depth research and first-hand contact with many of his subjects is immensely effective. The amount of times it appears he met with people whose views are directly opposed to his in the interest of painting a more rounded and colourful portrait of “The Establishment” is astonishing.
There is no denying that with a factual text such as this, you will forget more of what you read than remember. Jones packs each chapter (there are ten including the introduction and conclusion) with personal accounts and facts, so that his argument can continue to stand up to the unstoppable right-wing criticisms. But what you will remember will make you angry and make you want to stand up for something. Whilst his account of the economic “recovery” and of economic strategy could be easily disagreed with by a reader without his left-wing beliefs, when Jones talks about the victims of a government (the coalition one) driven by achieving numbers no matter the context or effect on the people, it is almost impossible to not feel empathy.
That is why this is essential reading for none more than the people that voted for the UK’s incumbent political party. A left-wing reader will be able to spend the rest of their summer mobilising for a fight against injustice (because that is what Jones says readers need to do if they want change). There may be no better way to spend a summer. It is more important that the book reaches Conservative voters however. Exposure to new ideas and to the experiences of other people is how we learn. The book doesn’t demonise these people, it wants to reach out to them, and get them to turn their head slightly, so that they can see how their vote will be used. Whether or not they agree with Jones’ arguments, they (or anyone else) can hardly find a more emotionally inciting read this summer.