The Establishment

We need a word for the forces that govern our lives.  Establishment, a term popularized by Henry Fairlie in the 1950’s, is common currency.  He meant by it “the whole matrix of official and social relationships within which power is exercised.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson is held to be the first to use the word in that sense.  The elite, or governing class (often prefixed by Metropolitan in England, since its members do not hang out in the country) is a serviceable alternative.  Any formation with Liberal is now suspect, and it is increasingly abandoned as a prefix or suffix by those wishing to avoid the taint.  I have some time for Aldous Huxley’s “Alpha Pluses” as shorthand for the ruling class.  It is true that its members do think of their social position as correlating to their intellectual powers, a belief not always sustained by the facts of performance.  The status quo has many impassioned and principled defenders, the world over, and they have reason on their side.  To misquote Stanley Baldwin, the defenders are a lot of hard-faced men who look as if they had done very well out of the status quo.  Nowadays, the defenders are easily identified as Remainers, devotees of the sacred European Union—and of the Bourbons.  My own favorite term was coined by William Cobbett, a couple of centuries...

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