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The Rise of the Meritocracy (Classics in Organization and Management Series) Paperback – January 1, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Has the thrill of immediate relevance. . . its thinking is consistently rich and fascinating. Young is onto a big theme, involving fundamental questions about social organization and individual dignity. What drives the book is Young's having identified one of the fundamental paradoxes of what we would call liberalism and the British would call socialism: the liberal dream of equal opportunity."

—Nicholas Lemann, The Atlantic Monthly

About the Author

Michael F.D. Young studied at the universities of Cambridge and Essex and the former Regent Polytechnic. He is Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Education at the University of London Institute of Education, and was previously Head of Science at the London Nautical School.

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Product Details

  • Series: Classics in Organization and Management Series
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; Reprint edition (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560007044
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560007043
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Howard Aldrich on December 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
Even though Michael Young was clearly disturbed by the possibility of a society totally based on assigning educational & occupational positions to people based solely on "objective" indicators of merit -- mainly, IQ tests -- he nonetheless made a powerful case for why such a system could arise. Although he didn't credit Max Weber, Young's ideas about the rationalization of social life, based on ruthless means/ends assessments, clearly owe a huge debt to Weber. Young portrayed pre-WWII England as riven with class distinctions, with its economic & social institutions held back by the veneration of traditional elite privileges. Thus, his depiction of post 1959-England follows logically from his account of how various political parties and social movements championed replacing the old system with one that rewarded merit, not the legacies of birth. Most amazing to me is Young's prescient description of how a potent feminist movement arose in the 1960s & 70s to push for greater rewards to merit, regardless of gender. (Remember: he was writing in the late 1950s!) I highly recommend reading this book in conjunction with Jerome Karabel's book, The Chosen, which chronicles the growth of merit-based admissions policies at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, in response to the same forces that Young describes (Karabel does cite Young's book). Despite its age, this book is most assuredly NOT dated! However, readers unfamiliar with English social history in the 20th century will no doubt miss a lot of Young's subtle satire.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Newman on July 29, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Young gives us a description of a society that abolishes priority based on family lines, and instead is based on intellectual achievement. He warns us against the excesses of such a system, but he does it an interesting way that treads dangerous ground. His narrator is firmly in support of the meritocracy system, and is given great eloquence by the author. Much as Aldous Huxley did in Brave New World, the system he seeks to question is championed by a very effective communicator. Some readers may not realize that Young was NOT an ardent supporter of the meritocracy idea, such is the eloquence of the narrator in its support. An interesting book that contributes greatly to the discussion, both pro and con. The final lines were beneath the rest of the book. A fiction writer can always make his point by having the characters behave in keeping with his theory. The philosophy was much better.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By not a natural on June 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
The term meritocracy came to the fore in 1958 when the British sociologist Michael F.D. Young published a satirical account of aggressively achievement-based modern societies. In Rise of the Meritocracy, young introduced the concept into sociological discourse and the popular lexicon. However, meritocracy, as young wrote about it, was a caricature of social policy excesses promulgated in pursuit of the ill-defined goals of social efficiency and merit-based justice.

Whatever Young's intention, meritocracy failed to catch on as a satirical caricature, but quickly became an exemplar, a composite of organizing principles for the modern world. The idea of meritocracy, a society in which social roles and rewards are distributed according to realized ability and demonstrated performance, became a point of departure for evaluating the workings of our social world.

Whatever the cultural forces that distorted public perception of Rise of the Meritocracy, those forces seem to be pervasive and powerful. For example, fifteen years after its publication, Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, a celebration of the presumed realization of meritocracy, still sells very well. Critical reviews of The Bell Curve commonly are met with hostility, and the fact that it has rightly been dismissed as "junk science" and "social science pornography" seems only to affirm its readers' faith. There seems to be an abiding and widespread fear that the truly meritorious -- you, me, whomever -- will lose their rightful place and suitable level of compensation because brains and hard work will not be rewarded.

But look around us, take full toll of the economic mess that the U.S. is in now: is this a meritocracy? Looks to me as if the boys and girls who ostensibly have the brains have been short-sighted, willfully stupid, and limitlessly greedy. I think meritocracy works best as satire and caricature, and Young was right.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book Worm on February 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading this book it becomes clear where we are headed as a nation. And we, who have benefitted from our success, should try harder to convince others we are on the wrong road. We should not give up or give in to the government lie that our potential success rest on the misguided absent mindedness of government policy.

As a child I read Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe where she writes of how slavery kept the Black Race in check. Many fought hard and long to end the sin of slavery and place equal opportunity as an uniquely American trait. But, after fighting the Civil War, and 660 thousand deaths what did we learn?

We learned when we don't watch out for the little guy the government will enact slavery once again. Only this time the government got the slaves to obey willingly and accept slavery in the form of welfare in the guise of hope!

If you love someone then give them a copy. Preferably a minority child!
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