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Owen Jones’ blistering excoriation of persistent class prejudice in Britain begins by taking on the shocking acceptability with which the supposedly liberal middle classes ridicule the white working class, primarily through the label ‘chav’. The word (arguably) found its way into English from the Romanian ‘chavi’, meaning small boy. There’s a sense that Jones starting writing a book about this undoubtedly important and under-recognised issue, but ended up wanting to write about inequality and economic history more generally, and Jones’ argument, though passionate and well-supported with plenty of stats, is at times rather one-sided. He also tends to romanticise the life of factory and pit communities, and never mentions the agricultural working classes. But despite its faults, Chavs is an important book that needed writing, a reminder of the continuing relevance of class in British politics and society, no matter what Thatcher then Blair may have tried to get us to think. Chavs was published shortly before the Summer 2011 riots, and in a way feels prescient; the new edition contains a preface in which Jones adds his tuppence on the upheavals.

Verso Books/paperback/£9.99/9781844678648

Dan Eltringham