Meritocracy, Elitism and Inequality
Political Quarterly , Volume 91 - Issue 2 p. 397- 404
The appeal of meritocracy is plain to see, because it appears to promote equality of opportunity. However, in this paper we argue that meritocracy is also a deeply elitist project. Firstly, we place Michael Young in context to show how his critique of meritocracy should be understood as a socialist vision to ameliorate class divides. Secondly, we show how economic inequality in the UK has not generated systematic resistance: in fact, inequality and belief in meritocracy have gone hand in hand. Thirdly, we argue that people see their own lives as meritocratic rather than ascribed, and that such values are deeply embedded in popular life. We offer two explanations for how such views have come about, and show how they have helped construct a more unequal society.