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.
- 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)
- It is enlightening to see how pugnacious the U.S. establishment...has been in dealing with the Ukraine crisis. The crisis arguably began when the Yanukovich government rejected an EU bailout program in favor of one offered by Russia. The mainstream media (MSM) have virtually suppressed the fact that the EU proposal was not only less generous than the one offered by Russia, but that, whereas the Russian plan did not preclude further Ukrainian deals with the EU, the EU plan would have required a cut-off of further Russian arrangements. And whereas the Russian deal had no military clauses, that of the EU required that Ukraine affiliate with NATO. Insofar as the MSM dealt with this set of offers, they not only suppressed the exclusionary and militarized character of the EU offer, they tended to view the Russian deal as an improper use of economic leverage, “bludgeoning,” but the EU proposal was “constructive and reasonable” (Ed., NYT, November 20, 2014). Double standards seem to be fully internalized within the U.S. establishment. The protests that ensued in Ukraine were surely based in part on real grievances against a corrupt government, but they were also pushed along by right-wing groups and by U.S. and allied encouragement and support that increasingly had an anti-Russian and pro-accelerated regime change flavor.
There is credible evidence that the sniper shootings... were carried out by a segment of the protesters in a false-flag operation that worked exceedingly well, “government” violence serving as one ground for the ouster of Yanukovich.
- Edward S. Herman in War is Our Business and Business Looks Good, Z Magazine (28 June 2014)
- 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
- As an institutional fact, the cultural apparatus assumes many forms, but everywhere today it tends to be part of some national establishment. This term, “establishment,” is of course your (a British) term. The ambiguity with which you use it is at once too lovely and too useful for a mere sociologist to avoid stealing it. I now serve notice that I do intend to steal it, although I promise that I shall try not to make of it a Concept. In general, the term points to the overlap of culture and authority. This overlap may involve the ideological use of cultural products and of cultural workmen for the legitimation of power, and the justification of decisions and policies. It may involve the bureaucratic use of culture by the personnel of authoritative institutions. But the essential feature of any establishment is a traffic between culture and authority, a tacit co-operation of cultural workmen and authorities of a ruling institution. This means of exchange between them includes money, career, privilege; but, above all, it includes prestige. A zone of at least semiofficial prestige which is at once of culture and of authority is the zone of any establishment.
- C. Wright Mills, "The Cultural Apparatus," in The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills (2008)
- 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