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Meritocracy, elitism and inequality

Mijs, Jonathan J.B and Savage, Mike ORCID: 0000-0003-4563-9564 (2020) Meritocracy, elitism and inequality. Political Quarterly, 91 (2). 397 - 404. ISSN 0032-3179

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-923X.12828


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.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2020 15:03
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2024 21:09

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