The tyranny of merit?

Meritocracy has emerged as a significant social ideal

Policymakers from across the ideological divide repeatedly revert to the concept that rewards like authority, employment, money and university admission should be distributed based on ability and effort

The most accepted theme of meritocracy is the level-playing field, where all the players can ascend to the role that best suits their abilities

Meritocracy is described as the polar opposite of systems such as oligarchy and aristocracy, wherein a person’s social position is ascertained by the lottery of birth

Affluence and added benefit are the legitimate rewards for merit in a meritocracy, not a birthright

In 2020, a prominent American philosopher, Michael Sandel, wrote a book, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?, in which he attacked the very idea of merit and its practice

Sandel sees a serious problem in today’s view of meritocracy because of it being a “technocratic version”

In today’s world “common good” seems to be seen solely as GDP’s growth

The value of people’s contribution seems to be linked to how much they can sell, which explains the apparent paradox that an investor betting against a production company is “more worth” than a physician

The merit-based ideal emphasises mobility over equality

It does not address the unfathomable disparities in people’s circumstances; instead, it simply advocates for every person to be given an opportunity, irrespective of bias

This maintains the squabble between the winners and those who are left behind in the race through pride and shame, respectively

Also, even if one doesn’t merit the advantages of being born into a rich family, why should other types of luck, such as possessing a specific aptitude, be any worse, Sandel argues

The absolute meritocratic process eliminates an individual’s ability to regard oneself as having a shared destiny

This is the most difficult barrier to forming a unity, and it is precisely what makes merit dictatorial

The “tyranny of merit” could be seen all over the world including the most developed nations but it is more prevalent in developing nations like Pakistan

Here our family background has a significant impact on academic and professional success

Pakistan has an estimated 40% population living in poverty

The chances of a child from this socioeconomic group receiving schooling are mostly determined by the gender of the child and the priority that the family gives to getting their child educated

Furthermore, the ratio of girls decreases dramatically from elementary to high school

Likewise, a boy from a low-income family could either quit his studies to seek poorly paid and unskilled occupations or pursue his education in a government school

To say the least, the level of instruction in government schools is appalling

The students do not have access to adequate facilities

Additionally, government schools lack essential amenities such as toilets, drinkable water and other necessities

A student at a government school is barely able to learn key abilities as a result of such shortcomings

For instance, a person’s ability to use modern technologies as well as a variety of other critical skills are required to advance in life

These flaws result in significant inequalities between children attending commercial and government schools

As a result, these disparities accumulate and have disastrous consequences for students of government schools

As a result, most of them are unable to pursue higher education

Most higher education institutions in Pakistan place a strong emphasis on merit-based admissions, with this merit determined by an entrance test and academic record

Such criteria don’t take into account an applicant’s abilities

This system of admissions is highly biased against underprivileged students

They are unable to pay exorbitant fees and other allied expenses

Sandel heavily criticised both the idea and practice of merit because it favours the wealthy and privileged

Therefore, to make a just society, an egalitarian system must be adopted based on the principles of justice and fairness

It is easier said than done but it seems to be the best available solution to eliminate rampant inequality and injustice in our society

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2022

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Date:02-Jan-2022 Reference:View Original Link