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Meritocracy is a political system in which power is vested in individuals according to merit.
- The wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not obey another, but the less wise must obey him.
- Aristotle, Metaphysics 982a17, Complete Works, vol. 2, p. 1554
- Everyone knows how compromised the idea of bureaucracy as a meritocratic system is. The first criterion of loyalty to any organization is therefore complicity. Career advancement is not based on merit but on a willingness to play along with the fiction that career advancement is based on merit, or with the fiction that rules and regulations apply to everyone equally, when in fact they are often deployed as an instrument of arbitrary personal power. ... As whole societies have come to represent themselves as giant credentialized meritocracies, rather than as systems of predatory extraction, we bustle about, trying to curry favor by pretending we actually believe it to be true.
- David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules (2015)
- Transforming hereditary privilege into ‘merit,’ the existing system of educational selection, with the Big Three [Harvard, Princeton, and Yale] as its capstone, provides the appearance if not the substance of equality of opportunity. In so doing, it legitimates the established order as one that rewards ability over the prerogatives of birth. The problem with a ‘meritocracy,’ then, is not only that its ideals are routinely violated (though that is true), but also that it veils the power relations beneath it. For the definition of ‘merit,’ including the one that now prevails in America’s leading universities, always bears the imprint of the distribution of power in the larger society. Those who are able to define ‘merit’ will almost invariably possess more of it, and those with greater resources—cultural, economic and social—will generally be able to ensure that the educational system will deem their children more meritorious.
- Jerome Karabel, The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (Houghton Mifflin: 2005), pp. 549-550
- When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.
- That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: ‘Is this true?’ They ask: ‘Is this what others think is true?’ Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull.
- Ayn Rand, Dominique Francon in The Fountainhead (1968), p. 727
- Every highly privileged group develops the myth of its natural, especially its blood, superiority. Under conditions of stable distribution of power and, consequently, of status order, that myth is accepted by the negatively privileged strata. Such a situation exists as long as the masses continue in that natural state of theirs in which thought about the order of domination remains but little developed, which means, as long as no urgent needs render the state of affairs “problematical.” But in times in which the class situation has become unambiguously and openly visible to everyone as the factor determining every man’s individual fate, that very myth of the highly privileged about everyone having deserved his particular lot has often become one of the most passionately hated objects of attack.