meritocracy

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meritocracy

1. rule by persons chosen not because of birth or wealth, but for their superior talents or intellect
2. the persons constituting such a group
3. a social system formed on such a basis

meritocracy

a form of society in which educational and social success is the outcome of ability (measured by IQ) and individual effort. The notion, given prominence by Michael Young (The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1958), figured prominently in the work of Fabian socialists who did much to promote it as a guiding principle to legitimate the changes sought in the 1944 Education Act and the subsequent drive to secondary reorganization along comprehensive lines. Meritocracy emphasizes equality of competition rather than equality of outcome, assuming that positions in an occupational hierarchy will be obtained as a result of achievement on merit against universal, objective criteria, rather than on ascribed criteria of age, gender, race, or inherited wealth. No person of quality, competence or appropriate character should be denied the opportunity to achieve a commensurate social status. Essential to the concept of meritocracy is the belief that only a limited pool of talent exists and that it is an important function of the education system to see that such talent is not wasted but is developed and fostered. (See also FUNCTIONALIST THEORY OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION).

The principle of meritocracy is by no means universally accepted. Young himself was ambivalent about some of its consequences, e.g. a denuding of working-class culture and working-class leadership. Major criticisms have also come from those who argue that genuine EQUALITY can only be achieved by the adoption of strategies which are designed to produce greater equality as an end product of the system rather than at its starting point. In any event, those advocating the meritocratic view have to resolve the recurring difficulty of devising objective measures of ability. See also INTELLIGENCE.

References in periodicals archive ?
That America's meritocrats have started adopting beatnik ideas is hardly surprising.
But most of the meritocrats, like Munger in the beginning, took the perks and ran, seeking the time-honored American prerogatives of success for themselves and their families.
I was raised by staunch meritocrats in a thoroughly secular home where Religion was considered not so much an opiate of the masses as a relic of the primitive past.
Tomalin characterizes them as classic meritocrats, and for the Austens as for the Watsons in the novel fragment of that name, "The Luck of one member of a Family is Luck to all.
The thesis of the book is that the British "psychologists who dominated educational thinking for much of this century were meritocrats rather than conservatives, and progressives rather than traditionalists.
This has been a cause of this magazine for more than forty years, one that other journalists and writers have been slow to share--the meritocrats seem to have treated Vietnam as a permanent excuse for not serving in the military.
From Hunter to Harvard to Goldman Sachs, the meritocrats proceed through life convinced that they owe their rise exclusively to their own efforts.
But now they are trying to prove they can succeed as meritocrats.
So far she is almost unique among frontline politicians in daring to mouth it but behind the scenes there are many meritocrats who find the concept alluring.