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 ?
In fact, the three students who had spent the least amount of time at the school represented diametrically opposed positions: Cora and Melanie as Activist Allies and Jennifer as a Meritocrat. The students who had spent their entire academic lives at the school primarily expressed Benevolent Benefactor thinking.
Instead, the prevailing common sense argues that merit has been corrupted by a system of entitlements that hands out privileges and advantages to people who don't deserve them: unqualified graduate students and intellectuals who are recruited into academia because "excellence," to use a favorite word of meritocrats, has been sacrificed to "the ideology of equality." We need to return to policies based on "enduring standards of merit and inferiority," write the authors of The Bell Curve, under which the spoils should go to those who work hard, are ambitious, and stick to the rules of the game (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994: 533, 534).
On the contrary, it can be viewed as a successful intrusion into the informal honours system by competitive business and professional meritocrats. That was because the concept accorded social recognition to meritorious individuals as well as to men with land and high birth.
Further, they vaguely perceive that their own taxes end up enabling the bad habits of the meritocrat class.
The top brass in the French army did not want Dreyfus on the General Staff because he was a Jew and a meritocrat: he was too clever by half.
("By the time her child is in the pre-preschool years, Ubermom is boosting her junior achiever's prephonics-acquisition skills.") There is the Organization Kid, the dutiful meritocrat who spends high school amassing "extracurriculars" and his college years trying to climb the system instead of bucking it.
Clinton was a meritocrat who began life as a poor white kid in Arkansas with an alcoholic stepfather and ended it as the first Democrat to win a second term since Harry Truman.
For the American meritocrat, life, until age 40 or so anyway, is an intense race through such institutions, which might include SATs, admissions offices, law school, law review, clerkship, the associates program, and, finally, partnership.
The mere fact of belonging to a particular community, family, religion, class, or nation should (in the view of the meritocrats) be meaningless when determining who gets rich, who is promoted to manager, who gets their writing published, who gains political authority, who succeeds in any way.
Indeed, Collier and I are among the first British meritocrats. And just as Young predicted, our cohort broke the system for subsequent generations, while continuing to extol its virtues.
To the extent that they expressed their public spiritedness, it was by supporting causes--gay rights, the environment--that weren't the central concerns of most middle- and working-class voters, whose incomes were stagnating while the meritocrats' were soaring.
If we consider that Taciteanism, whether in a bastardized form of baronial oligarchy or constitutional monarchy, was championed by a landed aristocrat, Essex, (48) Machiavellianism was used not only by the socially upward climbing meritocrats within the nobility, but also by the aristocrats to secure their 'interests'.