An anti-establishment sign at Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, in 2012.

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.[1] Antiestablishmentarianism (or anti-establishmentarianism) is an expression for such a political philosophy. Anti-establishment positions vary depending on political orientation. For example, during the protests of 1968, anti-establishment positions generally emerged from left-wing, socialist, and anarchist circles. In the 2010s however, anti-establishment positions generally emerged from right-wing populist circles.

By country


The Libertad Avanza coalition—led by Javier Milei—has an ideology revolving anti-Peronism.[2]


Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party and the United Australia Party (formerly Palmer United) have both been referred to as anti-establishment parties.[3][4]


This section needs expansion with: examples and additional citations. You can help by adding to it. Relevant discussion may be found on Template talk:Expand section. (November 2018)

The People's Party of Canada is seen as anti-establishment political party.[5][6] Bernier was accused by prominent Conservative politicians such as former prime ministers Stephen Harper[7] and Brian Mulroney[8] of trying to divide the political right. Bernier responded to Power and Politics that he wanted to focus on the disaffected voters stating that "there is 20 per cent of the population who do not even bother to vote that his party will debate discussions that "the leadership and the caucus" did not want to have when he was a party member.[9]


The Pirate Party of Iceland has a movement of anti-establishment.[10][11][12]


In India, the 1960s saw emergence of a group of writers who called themselves Hungryalists. They were the first anti-establishment and counter culture writers in Bengal whose dissenting voice drew attention of the government and court cases were filed against them.[13] The main anti-establishment voices in Bengali literature have been Malay Roy Choudhury, Samir Roychoudhury, Subimal Basak, Falguny Roy and Tridib Mitra.

However, anti-establishment littlemag movement is still active both in Bangladesh and West Bengal.


The Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League are considered anti-establishment parties.[14][15] The M5S led by Luigi Di Maio won the most votes in the 2018 Italian general election and formed the largest groups in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. The center-right electoral alliance led by League's secretary Matteo Salvini won a pluralities of seats in both houses. The M5S and the League agreed to form a government coalition, which resulted in Giuseppe Conte being appointed Prime Minister and forming the 65th government of the Italian Republic.[16][17]

Power to the People, a left-wing to far-left electoral alliance comprising several parties, organizations, associations, committees and social centers, is also an anti-establishment movement. In its manifesto, membership to Power to the People is described as "social and political, anti-liberist and anti-capitalist, communist, socialist, environmentalist, feminist, secular, pacifist, libertarian and southernist left-wing", whose goal as coalition is "to create real democracy, through daily practices, self-governance experiments, socialisation of knowing and popular participation".[18] In the 2018 general election, they obtained 370,320 votes for the Chamber of Deputies (1.13%) and 319,094 votes for the Senate (1.05%), without electing any representatives.


The election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as President of Mexico was deemed as anti-establishment by pundits.[19][20][21]


The National Crusade Party, founded and led by former senator Paraguayo Cubas, has anti-establishment elements within the party.[22] In the 2023 general election, Cubas ended in third place in the presidential election—with almost 23% of the vote—while in the parliamentary election, the party became the third political force in both chambers.[23]


Pakistan has a long history of anti-establishment/anti-military movements but in the recent past Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was considered to be the biggest anti-establishment movement in Pakistan. The movement was a political coalition of the major political parties of Pakistan, including Pakistan Muslim League (N), Pakistan People's Party,Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) and other 12 smaller or regional parties. Since ouster of former PM Imran Khan April 2022, the whole facade of anti-establishment stands exposed. The same so called anti-establishment/military forces stood behind few generals for shared benefits but a powerful resistance and steadfastness of majority of Pakistani people in Pakistan chose to stand behind Imran Khan, believed in and sided with his narrative. This movement was a surprise to country’s powerful generals who couldn’t work it out and kept making mistakes one after another. Due to which Imran Khan and his humongous backing of nation started to scare generals, PDM and others. It resulted in brutal use of force and crackdowns against Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Since April 2022 strong voices have been taken down allegedly by ISI and Pakistan Army for example Arshad Sharif who was a very professional and upright investigative journalist and strong aide of Pakistani military but since ouster of Imran Khan he sides with him and became very critical of powerful generals who, allegedly, hounded him out of the country and eventually got him murdered in Kenya in October 2022. Another example is Imran Riaz Khan who have been a strong critic of Pakistani military establishment has been forcefully disappeared since May 2023 and many other journalist and activists became victim of military fascism including Ayaz Amir, Sami Abraham, Jameel Farooqi, Sabir Shakir etc. [citation needed]

Even after several crackdowns against the public and majority party of Pakistan, military establishment fails to regain its credibility, respect and trust of common people. These crimes of Pakistani military are not shown by Pakistani media and by some parts of international media because of American involvement and behind the scenes support of Pakistan military in supplying weapons to Ukraine in war against Russia in exchange for dollars and IMF program. [citation needed]

United Kingdom

In the UK anti-establishment figures and groups are seen as those who argue or act against the ruling class. Examples of British anti-establishment satire include much of the humour of Peter Cook and Ben Elton; novels such as Rumpole of the Bailey; magazines such as Private Eye; and television programmes like Spitting Image, That Was The Week That Was, and The Prisoner (see also the satire boom of the 1960s). Anti-establishment themes also can be seen in the novels of writers such as Will Self.[24]

However, by operating through the arts and media, the line between politics and culture is blurred, so that pigeonholing figures such as Banksy as either anti-establishment or counter-culture figures can be difficult.[25] The tabloid newspapers such as The Sun, are less subtle, and commonly report on the sex-lives of the Royals simply because it sells newspapers, but in the process have been described as having anti-establishment views that have weakened traditional institutions.[26] On the other hand, as time passes, anti-establishment figures sometimes end up becoming part of the Establishment, as Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones frontman, became a Knight in 2003,[27] or when The Who frontman Roger Daltrey was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 in recognition of both his music and his work for charity.[28]

United States

Individuals who were anti-establishment often spoke of "fighting the man", not wanting to be "selling out to the Establishment", and "tearing down the Establishment." Many well renowned activists and activist groups innovated great changes to society by standing up to "the Establishment".

"The Establishment" to these, and these anti-establishment activists was not simply the people of the older generation. defines the establishment as "the existing power structure in society; the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions; institutional authority",[29] Merriam-Webster defines the words as "a group of social, economic, and political leaders who form a ruling class"[30] and The Free Dictionary defines it as "A group of people holding most of the power and influence in a government or society."[31] Social critic and "people's" historian Howard Zinn defines the establishment as "Republicans, Democrats, newspapers [and] television" in his book, A People's History of the United States.[32] Later Zinn calls out the "huge military establishment" which one could assume is part of his definition of the "Establishment." In a chapter of the book that expresses Zinn's political theory for the future he defines "the Establishment [as] that uneasy club of business executives, generals, and politicos."[33]

Later in Zinn's book is a reprinted quote from Samuel Huntington, who was a Harvard University political science professor and White House political consultant, that describes the establishment and the coalition a president should establish upon being elected:

"...the President act[s]...with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the executive office, the federal bureaucracy, Congress, and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations, and media, which constitute the private sector's "Establishment."...The day after [the President's]...election, the size of his majority is almost — if not entirely — irrelevant to his ability to govern the country. What counts then is his ability to mobilize support from the leaders of key institutions in a society and government. ... This coalition must include key people in Congress, the executive branch, and the private-sector 'Establishment'."[34]

Early usage

Anti-establishment in the United States began in the 1940s and continued through the 1950s.

Many World War II veterans, who had seen horrors and inhumanities, began to question every aspect of life, including its meaning. Urged to return to "normal lives" and plagued by post traumatic stress disorder (discussing it was "not manly"), in which many of them went on to found the outlaw motorcycle club Hells Angels. Some veterans, who founded the Beat Movement, were denigrated as Beatniks and accused of being "downbeat" on everything. Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a Beat autobiography that cited his wartime service.

Citizens had also begun to question authority, especially after the Gary Powers U-2 Incident, wherein President Eisenhower repeatedly assured people the United States was not spying on Russia, then was caught in a blatant lie. This general dissatisfaction was popularized by Peggy Lee's laconic pop song "Is That All There Is?", but remained unspoken and unfocused. It was not until the Baby Boomers came along in huge numbers that protest became organized, who were named by the Beats as "little hipsters".[citation needed]


"Anti-establishment" became a buzzword of the tumultuous 1960s. Young people raised in comparative luxury saw many wrongs perpetuated by society and began to question "the Establishment". Contentious issues included the ongoing Vietnam War with no clear goal or end point, the constant military build-up and diversion of funds for the Cold War, perpetual widespread poverty being ignored, money-wasting boondoggles like pork barrel projects and the Space Race, festering race issues, a stultifying education system, repressive laws and harsh sentences for casual drug use, and a general malaise among the older generation. On the other side, "Middle America" often regarded questions as accusations, and saw the younger generation as spoiled, drugged-out, sex-crazed, unambitious slackers.

Anti-establishment debates were common because they touched on everyday aspects of life. Even innocent questions could escalate into angry diatribes. For example, "Why do we spend millions on a foreign war and a space program when our schools are falling apart?" would be answered with "We need to keep our military strong and ready to stop the Communists from taking over the world." As in any debate, there were valid and unsupported arguments on both sides. "Make love not war" invoked "America, love it or leave it."

As a hippie, Ken Westerfield helped to popularize Frisbee as an alternative disc sport in the 1960s and 1970s.

As the 1960s simmered, the anti-Establishment adopted conventions in opposition to the Establishment. T-shirts and blue jeans became the uniform of the young because their parents wore collar shirts and slacks. Drug use, with its illegal panache, was favored over the legal consumption of alcohol. Promoting peace and love was the antidote to promulgating hatred and war. Living in genteel poverty was more "honest" than amassing a nest egg and a house in the suburbs. Rock 'n roll was played loudly over easy listening. Dodging the draft was passive resistance to traditional military service. Dancing was free-style, not learned in a ballroom. Over time, anti-establishment messages crept into popular culture: songs, fashion, movies, lifestyle choices, television.

The emphasis on freedom allowed previously hushed conversations about sex, politics, or religion to be openly discussed. A wave of radical liberation movements for minority groups came out of the 1960s, including second-wave feminism; Black Power, Red Power, and the Chicano Movement; and gay liberation. These movements differed from previous efforts to improve minority rights by their opposition to respectability politics and militant tone. Programs were put in place to deal with inequities: Equal Opportunity Employment, the Head Start Program, enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, busing, and others. But the widespread dissemination of new ideas also sparked a backlash and resurgence in conservative religions, new segregated private schools, anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation, and other reversals. Extremists [clarification needed] tended to be heard more because they made good copy for newspapers and television.[citation needed] In many ways, the angry debates of the 1960s led to modern right-wing talk radio and coalitions for "traditional family values".

As the 1960s passed, society had changed to the point that the definition of the Establishment had blurred, and the term "anti-establishment" seemed to fall out of use.[citation needed]

1960s to present: the use of anti-establishment rhetoric in American politics

See also: Counterculture of the 1960s

Howard Zinn, in his bestseller titled A People's History of the United States mentions the concept of "establishment" several times in the book. In reference to the 1896 election and McKinley's victory,[35] when talking about socialism in the early 20th century,[36] a major WWI general strike in 1919,[37] when writing about the aftermath of WWII,[38] in the talk about the repression of a communist party organizer, in discussion of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King Jr. and others,[39] when writing about how even when black leaders were elected, they could not overcome the establishment and in reference to opposition in the Vietnam War,[39] the establishment before and after the Watergate Scandal,[40] the establishment from Jimmy Carter's Administration to George H.W.'s administration,[41] the Iran-Contra Affair and the establishment, the maintaining of the military establishment even after the Cold War ended, the Vietnam Syndrome that leads to anti-establishment thought,[42] and in a discussion of the 2000 election.[43]

1999 WTO protests, Occupy protests and anti-establishment thought

In 2011, with the rise of anti-austerity protests, online activism like Anonymous and the advent of the Occupy protests targeting the power of high finance and fighting for "the 99%," anti-establishment thought has reappeared. BBC News commented in one article that "The sinister Guy Fawkes mask made famous by the film V for Vendetta has become an emblem for anti-establishment protest groups."[44] During the 1999 Seattle WTO protests the Earth Rainbow Network had (and still has) a page titled "The Anti-Establishment Files: Info and background material on the coming World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle."[45]

Shift in usage

See also: Drain the swamp

In recent years, with the rise of the populist right, the term anti-establishment has tended to refer to both left-wing and right-wing movements expressing dissatisfaction with mainstream institutions. For those on the right, this can be fueled by feelings of alienation from major institutions such as the government, corporations, media, and education system, which are perceived as holding progressive social norms, an inversion of the meaning formerly associated with the term. This can be accounted for by a perceived cultural and institutional shift to the left by many on the right. According to Pew Research, Western European populist parties from both sides of the ideological spectrum tapped into anti-establishment sentiment in 2017, "from the Brexit referendum to national elections in Italy".[46] Sarah Kendzior of QZ argued that the term anti-establishment "has lost all meaning",[47] citing a campaign video from then candidate Donald Trump titled "Fighting the Establishment".[48] The term anti-establishment has tended to refer to right-wing populist movements, including nationalist movements and anti-lockdown protests, since Trump and the global populist wave, starting as far back as 2015 and as recently as 2021.[49][50] However, the notion of right-wing movements being seen as anti-establishment has drawn criticism from leftists and liberals, who claim that what Trump and the right advocate is a maintaining of the establishment rather than contesting it, as progressive views espoused by corporations and government officials are often seen more as pandering rather than genuine support for true systemic change.

See also


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