The Establishment
The Establishment is a term used to refer to a visible dominant group or elite
Elite refers to an exceptional or privileged group that wields considerable power within its sphere of influence...

 that holds power or authority in a nation. The term suggests a closed social group which selects its own members (as opposed to selection by inheritance, merit or election). The term can be used to describe specific entrenched elite structures in specific institutions, but is usually informal in application and is more likely used by the media than by scholars.

The term is most often used in the UK, where it includes leading politicians, senior civil servants, the most important financiers and industrialists, governors of the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

, and the Royal Court
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

. For example, candidates for political office are often said to have to impress the "party establishment" in order to win endorsement. The term in this sense was coined by the British journalist Henry Fairlie
Henry Fairlie
Henry Jones Fairlie was a British political journalist and social critic. Sometimes mistakenly believed to have coined the term "the Establishment", an analysis of how "all the right people" came to run Britain largely through social connections, he spent 36 years as a prominent freelance writer...

, who in September 1955 in the London magazine The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

 defined that network of prominent, well-connected people as "the Establishment", explaining:
"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. The exercise of power in Britain (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially."

The term was quickly picked up in newspapers and magazines all over London, making Fairlie famous. He had not been the first to use The Establishment in this fashion; Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 had it a century before—the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

 would cite Fairlie's column as its locus classicus.

This use of the word was presumably influenced by the British term established church for the official churches in Great Britain. The term was soon found useful in discussing power elites in many countries, and the English word is used as a loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 in many languages.

In the jargon of sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, one who does not belong to "The Establishment" is an "outsider".

Extended use

The term is often use by rebels complaining about a small group that dominates a larger organization. For example, in 1968 academic radicals set up the "Sociology Liberation Movement" to repudiate the excessively mainstream leadership of the American Sociological Association
American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association , founded in 1905 as the American Sociological Society , is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the discipline and profession of sociology by serving sociologists in their work and promoting their contributions to serve society.The ASA holds its...

, which they referred to as the "Establishment in American sociology".

The term is also borrowed in the context of Hong Kong politics, where political parties, community groups, chambers of commerce, trade unions and individuals who are cooperative with and loyal to Beijing and the post-1997
In cellular telecommunications, the term handover or handoff refers to the process of transferring an ongoing call or data session from one channel connected to the core network to another...

 Hong Kong Government are labelled (most often self-labelled) "pro-establishment". The term first appeared around 2005, in contrast with pro-democracy camp
Pro-democracy camp
Pro-democracy camp, pan-democracy camp or pan-democrats refer to the politicians and social activists in Hong Kong who support increased democracy and may work together in areas of common interest or by not fielding candidates against one another in elections.Democratic activists are usually...

, to displace previously common yet derogatory labels. They also label the pro-democracy camp as "the opposition", which they use with negative connotations in the Cantonese language spoken by a majority in the territory, whereas "pro-establishment" is usually considered positive, since it carries the character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

s for constructive, and for systematic or orderly.

Before that these people and organisations were called (Beijing) loyalists, royalist
A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of government, but not necessarily a particular monarch...

s, pro-communist
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

s (which were all considered derogatory), and pro-China, etc. The term is different than the usage in the UK in the sense that this term is not commonly regarded to cover pro-democracy politicians in the territory's legislature, nor prominent barristers and solicitors who are vocal in criticising the government, amongst others.

See also

  • Anti-establishment
    An anti-establishment view or belief is one which stands in opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a society. The term was first used in the modern sense in 1958, by the British magazine New Statesman to refer to its political and social agenda...

  • Disestablishmentarianism
    Disestablishmentarianism today relates to the Church of England in the United Kingdom and related views on its establishment as an established church....

  • Established church
  • The Man
    The Man
    "The Man" is a slang phrase that may refer to the government or to some other authority in a position of power. In addition to this derogatory connotation, it may also serve as a term of respect and praise....

  • Military-industrial complex
    Military-industrial complex
    Military–industrial complex , or Military–industrial-congressional complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them...

  • Political class
    Political class
    Political class, or political elite is a concept in comparative political science originally developed by Italian political theorist theory of Gaetano Mosca . It refers to the relatively small group of activists that is highly aware and active in politics, and from whom the national leadership is...

  • Power elite
    Power elite
    A power elite or The Grand Elite, in political and sociological theory, is a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, and access to decision-making of global consequence. The term was coined by C...

  • Iron law of oligarchy
    Iron law of oligarchy
    The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German syndicalist sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into...

  • Babylon
    Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

Further reading

  • Campbell, Fergus. The Irish Establishment 1879–1914" (2009)
  • Dogan, Mattéi, Elite configurations at the apex of power (2003)
  • Judis, John B. The paradox of American democracy: elites, special interests, and the betrayal of public trust (2001)
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