A meritocracy is a social system in which success and status in life depend on the talent, ability, and effort of an individual. Meritocracy is the idea that people progress on the basis of their own merits, not their parents’ social class. We often think of meritocracy as a system that rewards the best and the brightest. Meritocracy is the opposite of systems such as the hereditary aristocracy, in which social status is determined by a lottery of birth. In a meritocracy, wealth and benefits are earned as rightful remuneration, not as an accidental windfall from external events.
In a meritocracy, leaders are chosen and promoted on the basis of superior abilities and virtues. Many technology companies employ performers – Red Hat is an example – in whom people find their own path to leadership, not by working hard or being smart, but by expressing unique ideas and skills that affect their teams and businesses. Meritocracy requires that positions of goodwill be distributed in accordance with individual merits.
Compared to other countries’ populations, Americans are enthusiastic about the idea of a meritocracy – a system that rewards achievement, ability, effort, and success. Many Western societies, led by the United States, are considered meritocracy, meaning that they are based on the belief that everything can be achieved through hard work and dedication. However, there are many who question the validity of the position that Western societies are a meritocracy.
In addition to being false, a growing body of research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that belief in meritocracy makes people more selfish, self-critical, and prone to discriminatory behavior. It has been argued that the meritocracy goes too far because it overrides individual entrepreneurs’ right to select employees on the basis of other criteria than their ability to do the job. The dynamism of meritocracy can exacerbate inequality because those committed to meritocratic principles lead people to believe that they are making the right judgment of their behavior.
The belief that we live in a meritocracy justifies the gaps in our society by attributing them to the skills and hard work of successful people and the incompetence and inadequacy of unsuccessful people. What makes Markovich’s book interesting is that he does not condemn meritocracy as unfair to non-elites, but argues that meritocracy is bad for the people who benefit. The authors propose a different approach to meritocracy, in which socio-economic and life-enhancing benefits are distributed to people who are successful in their activities, creating an environment of constant competition.
If meritocracy does not give everyone a fair chance of success, it is not good for society as a whole. If an education system reproduces existing class and status hierarchies, in which most of the benefits go to already privileged students, meritocracy will not work, and meritocracy is not the right approach at all. Meritocracy is a noble ideal and social system, but in order to achieve it, one must acknowledge that social, economic, and political conditions exist that make meritocracy impossible.
Merit (from Latin mereo cracy, Ancient Greek kratos (kratos, strength), and power) is a political system in which economic goods and political power are placed in the hands of individuals on the basis of talent, effort, achievement, prosperity, and social class. Meritocracy represents a vision in which power and privilege are assigned to the individual on merit, not social origin. The most common definition of meritocracy defines performance in the form of competence and aptitude tests, which are more likely to be measured by IQ or standardized performance tests.
The word “meritocracy” first appeared in a book intended to show what a society governed by these principles might look like. Michael Young used the term meritocracy to portray the UK as a dominant system favoring intelligence and achievement, including previous personal achievements. Education is not a complete meritocracy that gives power and authority to a degree that cannot be achieved on its own.
The meritocracy world is working to exacerbate and reproduce inequality because one thing happens when the wealthy can afford to educate their children in a way that rich children are better off when the time comes to judge people on merit. People who rise above the meritocracy are branded, to put it bluntly, fools who have the ability and the challenge to lead meaningful lives. Talent and effort are the two things that determine whether the rewards of the global meritocracy itself are earned.
The term “meritocracy” is no longer an idea that is mocked, derided, or celebrated. The ideology that is part of what attracts meritocracy is to justify the status quo, to explain why people belong where they belong, and to explain what happens to the social order. Advocates of educational achievement argue that social Darwinism justifies social inequality and is thus meritocratic.
When a new dynastic system takes shape, one might conclude that the meritocracy is faltering, with many complaining that it is not meritocratic enough. Sometimes politicians resort to tricks, but the truth is that whoever wins the outcome of a hard day will stand up and defend a system rooted in a meritocracy.