The Merits of Meritocracy

Sunday, August 23, 2020

What Is It

For centuries, the promise of the “American Dream” has been that as long as someone buckles down and works hard, she can achieve her goals. In other words, we’ve perpetuated the meritocratic notion that the more effort one puts in and the more ability one possesses, the more success one can attain. But is this really the case? Given the historical and societal disadvantages that certain groups of people face, it may appear that a strict meritocracy could not—and should not—exist. So, is a true meritocracy ever attainable? And if it really did exist and were in place, would it be fair? Josh and Ray level the playing field with Jo Littler from the City University of London, author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility.

Comments (3)

Zettmeister's picture


Monday, August 3, 2020 -- 11:40 AM

Meritocracy is an ideal

Meritocracy is an ideal founded on the notion of the rugged individual. The notion that hard work alone bestows a certain prestige and authenticity to an individual is only realized among 'equals' Not all individuals have equal brain or physical function, economic or class opportunity or tribal affiliation based on race. That is not to say that those individuals so 'afflicted' cannot rise above and beyond a staring point further back in the line, only reflects the probability that not all will attain similar goals or aspirations when circumstances vary.

The challenge becomes how to sort out the willing from the less so. Given the impossibility of measuring distinctions among so many independent variables, the most efficient means, in a complex society, is redistribution! Charity is not enough. America learned during and after the great depression that society left to its on devices leads to ruin for the whole. Hence government intervention which became the mixed economy, along with the rise of trade unionism and public education formed the 3 primary advances in modern society. Survival of the fittest may have worked in earlier times, however the relentless pace of technology and urbanization of the population seeking economic prosperity has changed all that.

gmengel's picture


Monday, August 3, 2020 -- 3:55 PM

I think the purpose of

I think the purpose of Meritocracy as an ideology is not only to give elites a way to feel like they earned their prosperity, even if 98% of the time they inherited it (via the wide ranging advantages of social class). Perhaps of equal importance is that it blames and shames those who are trapped in poverty by mechanisms of racial and class-based oppression. The implicit and explicit shaming of the disadvantaged for their situation helps keep them from recognizing the systemic obstacles that function to keep them on the edge.

Trog16's picture


Tuesday, August 4, 2020 -- 3:03 AM

The closest I have found to a

The closest I have found to a meritocracy that works is the military promotion system. Is it truly without flaws? No is my answer. However, It does allow for the least amount of favoritism. It also provides for the best chance of recognition without personal bias. I do not feel that any conditions for recognition or merit based success is without flaw. I believe that is based on human nature which will always attempt to influence any System that is put in place to allow for maximum personal achievement. A meritocracy or merit based system is still the most desirable way to acknowledge and recognize Hardworking people.