The Ideology of Giving People Status or Reward

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A meritocratic society is based on the ideology of giving people status or reward based on what they achieve rather than their wealth or social position. However, it could be argued that a meritocratic is just, and arguments that a meritocratic society is not just. Common themes of meritocratic society. Meritocracy was a term coined by Michael Young for government by those regarded as possessing merit, its possessors are identified at an early age and selected for an appropriate intensive education and there is an obsession with qualification and test-scoring (Arrow, Bowles and Durlauf, 2018).

This question is important as it opens the discussion for many societies to consider meritocratic methods to potentially better society. A notable example of a meritocratic society in practice, is the education system. Schools within the education system have engrained believes and values or meritocracy. It is a wildly held belief that application of meritocracy is subjective because many scholars have conflicting views on whether a meritocratic society can be a just society.

This essay will argue whether a meritocratic society is a just society. A society can be defined as a community with shared values and norms, for a society to be just, it could be argued that the society will function cohesively and there will be an overwhelming sense of safety for the majority. One reason why a meritocratic society may not equate to a just society is because capitalist societies are not meritocratic because deprived students have to work harder to achieve. Breen and Goldthorpe have argued that children of disadvantaged class origins have to demonstrate much more merit [as indicated by educational attainment or by IQ and effort] than children of more advantaged backgrounds in order to attain similar class positions (Erikson and Goldthorpe, 2002). 

It is clear that regardless of ability and skill, middle class individuals have the advantage of cultural and material capital as a contributing factor to advancement of one’s life, and future career prospects. This suggests that cultural capital, resources and gives middle class students an advantage in attainment. This supports the Marxists argument of the ‘myth of meritocracy’ especially within the education system (Alvarado, 2010). Marxists also argue that meritocracy plays an important role in creating false class consciousness. (Solt, Hu, Hudson, Song and Yu, 2016)

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One reason why a meritocratic society can be considered a just society is because meritocracy is encouraged within the workplace and can be used as a competitive tool to build an efficient and highly motivated team. According to Ackelsberg and Addelson state that companies remain competitive and successful, by recruiting and retaining top talent. And achieve this by, fostering meritocracy. Also, the most progressive companies have created formal systems for ensuring that job applicants and employees are judged solely by their effort, skill, and performance, regardless of gender, race, class or sexual orientation (Ackelsberg and Addelson, 2010). 

It could be argued that this rule out speculations of unfairness and favouritism from managers. However, it could be argued that nepotism is stopping people from progressing and movement of delegation is hindering to progress of individuals. It could also be argued that without meritocracy competition may decrease and lead to a less productive team.

Furthermore, a reason why a meritocratic society is not a just society is because inequalities made evident in today’s society proves that a class, age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are even stopping people from progressing. Pettit and Hook express concerns regarding how “parental leave and other conditions influence other aspects of economic inequality between women and men once they are in the labour force” … “There are also concerns that extended parental leave promote gender specialization and exacerbate gender inequality” (Pettit and Hook, 2009). 

This implies that regardless of hard work and ability there are still factors such as inequality that contribute to society not being just. This also implies that those affected by inequality can only progress to a certain point as there is a glass ceiling effect. This also means that companies do not have exercise the competence to implement meritocracy to ensure every individual regardless of class, age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are given an equal opportunity to exceeding. However, one could argue that the introduction of paternal and maternal leave allows job security whilst new parents adjust to a new lifestyle at home.

Moreover, a reason why a meritocratic society is a just society is because functionalists emphasize that the education system implement meritocracy to ensure everyone is given equal opportunities to achieve. As a consensus perspective, functionalists have a strongly held belief that there are many institutions in society that have necessary functions in order to maintain social control and minimise conflict. Sociologist, Bourdieu argues that schools are geared to sort and sift students using processes and narratives of abilities, gifts and development: the rationale – or doxa – of schooling is meritocracy, but what actually occurs is the reverse. It is particular children who succeed while other flounder (Thomson and Holdsworth, 2003). This suggests that the education system, sifts and sorts students as a form of role allocation to ensure that meritocracy is functional and argues in favour of a just society.

This also suggests that students are given many avenues to achieve the same goals as others. For example, the education system in the United Kingdom have a wide range of courses to allow people of all abilities to achieve the same goal. This shows that social mobility allows individuals to change their social status.

To conclude, there are many arguments to support that a meritocratic society equates to a just society and there are arguments to support the idea that a meritocratic society does not equate to a just society. This paper has argued that meritocracy drives healthy competition in the workplace and creates efficient and highly motivated workers. Moreover, this paper has argued that there is a myth of meritocracy. This paper has also argued that inequalities that exist in contemporary society, proves that meritocracy can not equate to a just society. Based on research conducted on meritocracy for this paper, I believe that there is a stronger argument to imply that meritocracy does not make a just society. Furthermore, this paper has argued that meritocracy is functional for maintaining a society with order.

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