The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite

The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite

A revolutionary new argument from eminent Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits attacking the false promise of meritocracy

It is an axiom of American life that advantage should be earned through ability and effort. Even as the country divides itself at every turn, the meritocratic ideal - that social and economic rewards should follow achievement rather than breeding - reigns supreme. Both Democrats and Republicans insistently repeat meritocratic notions. Meritocracy cuts to the heart of who we are. It sustains the American dream.

But what if, both up and down the social ladder, meritocracy is a sham? Today, meritocracy has become exactly what it was conceived to resist: a mechanism for the concentration and dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations. Upward mobility has become a fantasy, and the embattled middle classes are now more likely to sink into the working poor than to rise into the professional elite. At the same time, meritocracy now ensnares even those who manage to claw their way to the top, requiring rich adults to work with crushing intensity, exploiting their expensive educations in order to extract a return. All this is not the result of deviations or retreats from meritocracy but rather stems directly from meritocracy's successes.

This is the radical argument that Daniel Markovits prosecutes with rare force. Markovits is well placed to expose the sham of meritocracy. Having spent his life at elite universities, he knows from the inside the corrosive system we are trapped within. Markovits also knows that, if we understand that meritocratic inequality produces near-universal harm, we can cure it. When The Meritocracy Trap reveals the inner workings of the meritocratic machine, it also illuminates the first steps outward, towards a new world that might once again afford dignity and prosperity to the American people.

Title:The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite
ISBN:9780735221994
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    The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite Reviews

  • BlackOxford

    A Sociological Curate’s Egg Meritocracy is, according to Markovits, the only game in town. It’s a rigged game, of course, in which winners win because they have won before. Thomas Piketty’s ana...

  • Trevor

    The best of this book is the vast amount of data it provides. There are endless charts, facts and figures and graphs – and I do love a good graph. I think the notion of ‘merit’ is something that...

  • Richard Thompson

    A couple of days after finishing this book, I'm still not sure what to make of it. A lot of it seemed anecdotally true to me. I went to a fancy college and a fancy law school, where I saw many people ...

  • Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    The basic argument is that the meritocracy a system of hierarchy based on recruiting the elite by merit or ability replacing the old wasp ascendancy which seemed like a good idea when initially adopte...

  • Athan Tolis

    At first glance, the main thesis of this book seems plausible: a super-skilled “meritocracy” of hyper-qualified Ivy Leaguer types has ascended to the top of American society by mixing unsustainabl...

  • Sheri

    So I read Young's The Rise of the Meritocracy a few weeks ago and was not entirely convinced by his satirical argument that the Meritocracy is really all that bad. Markovits presents a much stronger a...

  • Mehrsa

    When I heard Markovits's Yale commencement speech, I shared it with everyone I knew and I was really excited to read the whole book. The book is a bit of a disappointment from where I thought he would...

  • Emily

    This book by a Yale law professor contains a few points that struck a eureka chord with me, and one observation that he tries to hammer home but which I didn't buy.In Capital in the Twenty-First Centu...

  • James

    Traps, Delusions, and Madness I have a daily bike commute that allows me to meditate on any recent preoccupations and a couple of mornings ago I realized that the three books I read in the last couple...

  • Justin Steele

    Markovits provides a compelling root cause analysis of the extreme inequality we see in the U.S. He shows how rising into the elite class through merotcratic competition and hard work has been morally...