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Six Anti-Establishment Books that will Separate Fake News from the Truth

The recent Presidential election in the USA has been hailed as a victory against ‘the Establishment’ by right-wing populists and supporters of Trump. Similarly, the decision made by the United Kingdom to leave the EU and trigger ‘Brexit’ has been described as a rebellion against the ‘elites’. With such monumental actions taking place across the globe, it seems apt to ask what is this elite Establishment that so many people appear to be acting against?

It was the British political journalist Henry Fairlie who first coined the term of ‘the Establishment’ in the early 1960s. In a sentence, he said, “By the ‘Establishment’, I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised.” Fairlie’s term has become increasingly popular and since the 1960s has been used to describe in general the established norms, standards, economics and governance of the western way of life. Class and identity politics matter too when we talk about ‘the Establishment’. The established systems that structure our society work for the rich, the white, the male and heterosexual. For the working class, for women, men and women of colour, there is a systemic disadvantage that ceases opportunity. The Establishment platforms and promotes its likenesses and does not empower those who are marginalised by its core principles.

With this in mind then it is confusing that the Trump victory and Brexit can be labelled as victories against ‘the Establishment’ when the changes occurring as a result of these outcomes disproportionately affect those who most suffer under this matrix of official and social relations. An explainer may be the rise of ‘fake news’ which has distorted truth with vague promises to ‘make America/Britain better’. Certainly, people have been manipulated and the most loathsome aspects of humanity have been roused under the falsity that those most marginalised and vulnerable somehow hold power. Indeed, Trump may not have been a member of the political Establishment that he so lambasted Hillary Clinton for being part of, but his wealth, social conservatism, vicious capitalism and his white male heterosexual identity make him a foundational member of the Establishment. So too, Brexit cannot be surmised as a revolt against elites out of touch with the working class. The vote to leave was undoubtedly whipped up by those in power in attempt to harken back to the days of Empire, when England ruled the world with wanton abandon.

Since the 1960s, popular culture has seen attempts by artists, musicians and writers in particular to challenge and disrupt the Establishment, or as many hippies called it back then, ‘the man’. Perhaps most notably the punk movement with bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash stuck two fingers up at the rules of the Establishment and harnessed the rage of the working class into music that advocated attacking the wealthy right-wing elites like Thatcher and Reagan who had a stranglehold over the UK and USA in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now in 2017, we find ourselves again searching for art music and words with which to battle the sophisticated and dangerous Establishment that is dragging the USA and UK down a right-wing road that echoes the white nationalist fascism of the 1930s. The following list offers a selection of anti-establishment books contemporary to the 21st Century as well as work from the past that will inform readers of the toxic nature of the Establishment away from the promulgation of falsities of Trump’s Twitter and Fox News and the BBC.

For those of us who wish to challenge and disrupt the norms and rules of the centres of power that discriminate, deprive and pit humanity against each other, these books offer an opportunity to resist and rise up against the pro-Establishment sentiments that are so popular today.

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Walter Rodney’s book on the history of Africa before, during and after colonisation is a staple read for anyone who may find themselves believing that countries like the United Kingdom established their wealth and imperial power through ‘hard work’. In a highly readable manner, Rodney dissects exactly how the English and other nations usurped African lands, lives and goods; leaving nothing for the native people. The book offers a fascinating insight into the ways of life in Africa prior to colonisation and the communities and skills of the African people before they were brutalised, enslaved and decimated by foreign peoples claiming their land as their own. This book challenges the very foundation of ‘the Establishment’, showing how it was built on the blood and work of people of colour and black people, using land that was stolen and pillaged.

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Said’s 1978 book is a classic in modern post-colonial thought. He introduces the concept of ‘the Other’ and illustrates how the western Establishment has positioned whiteness and western life as a strong powerful centre, with people of colour’s lives, art and worlds marginalised and discredited as weak and unimportant. Said’s work will open the eyes of any reader to the way that western civilisations dominate and forcefully amplify and platform western whiteness over any other experience. This book is an essential primer for anyone who wishes to understand how the Establishment was constructed and the ramifications it has for our societies today.

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Freedom Is A Constant Struggle

In this book, the eminent black feminist, activist and scholar Angela Davis draws parallels between the state terror, racism and discrimination carried out by the Establishment in the United States - particularly in Ferguson Missouri in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown - and the humanitarian abuses being carried out by Israel in Palestine. Davis, a lifelong abolitionist also continues her work in dissecting the injustices and wrongs of prison and how it complements the Establishment in isolating and persecuting those who do not fit the desired criteria of traditional social norms. As always, Davis ties in her feminism and political theory to these issues in order to strategize the best ways to show solidarity as activists and navigate the search for freedom in the fight against a militarised Establishment who shoot, kill and imprison black and brown bodies without thought and without punishment. This book is an invigorating and inspiring read, necessary for any anti-establishment thinker.

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In this beautiful, poignant, angry and political work of poetry, Rankine details the micro and macro examples of racism that affect black people living in the United States. Ranging from her own life experiences to Serena Williams to the abandonment of predominately black communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Citizen: An American Lyric asks us to question who the Establishment decides is a citizen, and who is not. Rankine’s words are full of pain and power. Her poetry provides the backbone for resistance and her voice breaks through all the restrictions of the Establishment. This is an unforgettable collection.

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Living a Feminist Life

Sara Ahmed’s book has been hailed by bell hooks and can be described as a roadmap for living life while adhering to feminist principles. Ahmed makes the case that choosing to live a feminist life defies the Establishment because the Establishment is explicitly anti-woman and pro-patriarchy. Ahmed urges her readers to not only ‘be’ a feminist, but ‘do’ feminism. She mixes her own personal experiences with examples and philosophy to produce a book that reads like a guidebook and diary for navigating this world and committing to anti-establishment socialist feminism – the antithesis of what is espoused by elites. Ahmed, who recently resigned from her position as Professor at Goldsmiths University in London is an ardent campaigner against sexual violence and harassment and her courage to stand with survivors is an especially welcome change to the misogynistic rhetoric that props up Trump and his government.


In this book, Owen Jones offers a contemporary evaluation of the British working class including their treatment in the media and the disdain the Establishment has for such people. Jones, a well-known political commentator writes about the stereotypes affixed to the working class, suggesting that the poverty and marginalisation they have experienced has left their identity ripe for demonization. Citing the history of the working class and how the Thatcherite government stripped away jobs and fragmented working communities, Jones pens a necessary study that shows how elites can and do whip up class hatred with the agenda of making the working class turn on themselves and other marginalised peoples, all the while profiting from their suffering.

Based in Northern Ireland, Maeve holds a PhD in English Literature - her thesis deconstructed silence in the work of Sylvia Plath. Maeve is an avid reader of poetry, fiction and academic ... Show More