The Establishment – What is it?

When journalists talk about the Brexit vote on 23rd June 2016 and the US Presidential Election on 8th November 2016 being against the Establishment, two fingers etc., what do they mean by the Establishment, or believe those they refer to as “ordinary people” mean?

The answer I believe is that there is not one single Establishment, sharing a home counties accent, or particular form of dress, taste in holidays, etc.

Rather, there is a heterarchy[1] of “establishments” – political, business, arts, academic, some think-tanks, civil service, sporting, media, etc., usually overlapping at least one other, but all sharing a common view of the desirability of a number of common goals: diversity, greenery, integration of disparate peoples, free trade, decarbonising Western Economies[2].

At the operational level, these Establishments are distinct, but at the chairmanship levels (what they call “leadership” levels) individuals flow effortlessly across the heterarchy: politics to business, politics to arts, media to academia, and so on, indeed constituting a single Establishment of probably fewer than 500 people for a population of 65 million. In these roles there is no measurement of their effectiveness, let alone any accounting for failure.

People see these folk on TV from time to time, as they pop up in one role or another. It is the unaccountability of individuals in these roles, which many are clearly unqualified for, plus the rewards and privileges which go with the roles, which has brought the Establishment into disrepute. Only when people are appointed to top jobs on the basis of open competition will the cynicism among those whose jobs are measured and rated, begin to dissipate.

End Notes

[1] This is a word invented by the writer to describe a system of connected parts with separate goals, but operating in the same “thought” space.

[2] The military have an establishment, but it largely doesn’t share these goals.


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