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. Owen Jones, in his book Chavs, which has opened up a major debate about the stereotyping and hatred of the working class in Britain 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, 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 working-class communities 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.
Speaker addition: Owen will be joined by Deborah Mattinson, from Britain Thinks, who has been carrying out research into attitudes to class in Britain.
Owen Jones has worked in the British Parliament as a trade union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher. Chavs is his first book.
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