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What is Meritocracy? How Meritocracy Worsens Inequality?

Merit: Only the good deserves to be the best. What is a meritocracy and how meritocracy worsens inequality?


The ‘Merit’ of the term, ‘Meritocracy’ means ‘Worthiness or excellence. You must have heard of the terms like ‘certificate of merit’ or ‘merit list’ which are referring to those who have excelled in a certain way to get a position. This defines that a person holds the merit of getting what they are seeking and when this is applied, then the process becomes meritocracy. And while on the surface, it can look like a justified process of making the deserving win, the actual impact can be seen in how meritocracy worsens inequality. But before moving to that, let’s learn about what is meritocracy?

What is Meritocracy

What is Meritocracy?

Michael Young invented the word “meritocracy” in 1958. According to him, authority and privilege should be distributed based on merit rather than social backgrounds. This idea, on the surface, looks just as anything can be. The one who has the skill gets the job. The early adopters of the concept of meritocracy were the American Societies and the culture still prevails in the society. The people from big institutes and colleges, who have learned the skills and craft from the institutes because they can afford it make the brightest students, and the best-est in the society. They get to top the merit list. And while the process was meant to democratize things,  Yale Law School’s Daniel Markovits claims in his book The Meritocracy that it has had the opposite effect.

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How does meritocracy worsen inequality?

Meritocracy is an elitist concept, and only the rich can afford it. It can look wise to say that a person should have the skills to get a job, and hence, having merits looks just like a decent way to give a job. But why is the question that why a person doesn’t have the skill, pops up in the minds of people when they choose to go with meritocracy is the problem?

What is Meritocracy

We live in an unequal society. There is a huge gap between the have(s) and have not(s). There is a divide reasoned by the class, caste, cultures, genders, identities, etc. and meritocracy is what widens this gap. People on the have not(s) end already don’t have the access to get the merit by going to the expensive institutes and combatting their majority counterparts. And with that existing, making merit as the criteria sieves out the have nots. The process can only make rich, richer, and poor, poorer

Meritocracy and the psychology behind it

Apart from being bad for the structural development of society, research suggests that believing in meritocracy reflects and adds up to make a person selfish, less self-critical, and prone to being discriminatory. The rich who get everything believes that everything is achievable, and might not end up realizing their privileges. A child who is being offered all that he needs because of the merit status can really do wonders, but might not end up seeking the other side of the line, the ones who are underprivileged. And for those who are the ones hit by meritocracy, there can come a deep sense of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and even feelings of envy and hate.

So, here is how and what meritocracy does to people. How it can be harmful to the people and the society. It has done more bad than good, and can only lead up to worsening the inequalities.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.
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