Book Review: Elitism: A Progressive Defence

Date01 February 2022
Published date01 February 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
ELIAN GLASER, Elitism: A Progressive Defence. London: Biteback Publishing, 2020, xii +125pp,
ISBN 978-1-78590-607-7, £7.99 (hbk) (via Amazon).
This is a slight book and there is a question whether it is fair to review it in a journal such
as this. Though it is very nicely presented, it is a short book, printed in a generous format
on small pages. I imagine it would amount to a longer than average article in a UK law
journal. It is also theoretically slight. It is a polemic written without a scholarly apparatus
in a language which would not be accepted by a scholarly journal by an author that does
not some claims made are unfortunate have a scholarly command of the history and
theory of her subject (outside of aesthetics). Polemic is, of course, in principle perfectly
legitimate, as is the absence of scholarly apparatus, but in this writers opinion a lack of
scholarship itself reduces this polemic to a diatribe.
However this is, this book seems to have the wind in its sails. Being published in a
series entitled Provocationsedited (curated, the book jacket tells us) by the inf‌luential
columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, it benef‌its from an endorsement by another media
f‌igure of, if anything, even more inf‌luence, Simon Jenkins, and has already received
what an academic at least sees as wide attention, including being discussed on the
BBC. This book can in some ways be compared to Joel SteinsIn Defence of Elitism,
but its specif‌ic argument is at the heart of current left-wing politics and theory, certainly
as they concern regulation understood widely. It is the virtue of this book, justifying this
review, to, if not illuminate, then vividly illustrate a crisis in the left-wing understanding
of economic and political power which is exhibited by many of the other than technical
submissions on regulation which I read for this journal and other academic outlets across
the common law world.
This book defends elitism, but this is a good elitismde nos jours, the entire plausi-
bility of which rests on the extent to which it can distinguish itself from the elitism to
which one conventionally thought the left was opposed. Inequality of power and there-
fore domination, discrimination on a wide range of claimed grounds and therefore
racism, and inequality of wealth and therefore poverty, especially on a claimed global
scale, are all condemned. But the condemnation is so strident that this provides the
f‌irst indication that we are a long way away from in a sense a lot further to the left
than the social democratic leftism informing the creation of the welfare state, the
legacy of which is described in this book as The Great Capitulation.
The author does all that objectivity requires when she begins her book by telling us
that I teach at a university(she is an Oxford English graduate who now holds a
Book Reviews
Social & Legal Studies
2022, Vol. 31(1) 162171
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0964663921994238

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