The Establishment generally denotes a dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation or organisation. The Establishment may be a closed social group which selects its own members or specific entrenched elite structures, either in government or in specific institutions.
The American Sociological Association states that the term is often used by those protesting a small group that dominates a larger organization. For example, in 1968, a group of academics set up the "Sociology Liberation Movement" to repudiate the leadership of the American Sociological Association, which they referred to as the "Establishment in American sociology".
In fact, any relatively small class or group of people having control can be referred to as The Establishment; and conversely, in the jargon of sociology, anyone who does not belong to The Establishment may be labelled an "outsider".
Anti-authoritarian and anti-establishment ideologies tend to view establishments as illegitimate.
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- If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.
- Art Buchwald, International Herald Tribune, May 24, 1989)
- Where grievances pile high and most of the elected spokesmen represent the Establishment, violence may be the only effective response.
- William O. Douglas, Points of Rebellion, p. 88–89 (1970)
- Most of the fascist functionaries live as unguarded as I do. I could slip a knife between Max Rafferty's ribs. The Agnews and Du Ponts, the Rockefellers and Morgans, all of the Getty, Hunt, and Hughes types who sneak around in armored cars and jets are just as reachable. Anyone who will come out of his bomb shelter can be had. Imagine what Nixon's armored car would look like if I stepped out of the alley and hit it with the anti-tank rocket launcher under my coat—a ball of fire. Hell will be their reward.
- Jonathan P. Jackson, in Blood in My Eye (1971), p. 46
- I do not think life will change for the better without an assault on the establishment, which goes on exploiting the wretched of the earth. This belief lies at the heart of the concept of revolutionary suicide. Thus it is better to oppose the forces that would drive me to self-murder than to endure them. Although I risk the likelihood of death, there is at least the possibility, if not the probability, of changing intolerable conditions.
- You should question authority and you should not assume that the establishment or the press tells you all of the truth.
- J. K. Rowling, as quoted in Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger