Why Does Meritocracy Matter to the Modern World? Adrian Wooldridge
Adrian Wooldridge explores the history of meritocracy, how it transformed cultures and societies and what it means today.
Meritocracy is the idea that people should be advanced according to their talents rather than their status at birth. For much of history this was a revolutionary thought, but by the end of the twentieth century it had become the world’s ruling ideology. How did this happen, and why is meritocracy now under attack from both right and left?
Wooldridge looks at the politicians and officials who introduced the revolutionary principle of open competition, the psychologists who devised methods for measuring natural mental abilities and the educationalists who built ladders of educational opportunity. He looks outside western cultures and shows what transformative effects it has had everywhere it has been adopted, especially once women were brought into the meritocractic system.
Wooldridge also shows how meritocracy has now become corrupted and argues that the recent stalling of social mobility is the result of failure to complete the meritocratic revolution. Rather than abandoning meritocracy, he says, we should call for its renewal.
In conversation with Bristol Ideas director Andrew Kelly.
Adrian Wooldridge’s The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World is published by Penguin. Buy a copy from Waterstones, our bookselling partners.
Adrian Wooldridge is the Economist‘s political editor and author of its Bagehot column. He has also worked as the Economist‘s American bureau chief, author of the Lexington column, and management editor and author of the Schumpeter column. He earned a doctorate in history from Oxford University, where he was a Fellow of All Souls College. He is the author of ten previous books, including Capitalism in America co-written with Alan Greenspan and seven co-written with John Micklethwait: The Wake-Up Call, The Witch Doctors, A Future Perfect, The Company, The Right Nation, God is Back and The Fourth Revolution.
Image credit: Paul Vicente/Sunday Times
It’s important to us that ideas and debate are affordable to everyone. It’s also important that our commentators, artists, writers, poets and thinkers are paid. This is a Pay What You Can event. You are invited to choose your own contribution to the event. A free option is available. All proceeds go towards supporting our speakers and sustaining Bristol Ideas.
This is an online event on Crowdcast. Please note that Crowdcast works best in Chrome.
Booking a ticket for our Crowdcast event
Click the Book Ticket link to go to Crowdcast to register. Click the ‘Save my spot’ button to register. You will be prompted to enter your email address or social media login (Facebook, Twitter or Google). An email will be sent to confirm your registration, along with the option to add the event to your calendar.
Joining our Crowdcast event
Once you register you will have instant access to the event’s Crowdcast page, including the polls, chat, and Q&A. To return to the event page at any time, simply click the link in your confirmation or reminder email. The event will start automatically on its event page at the time advertised, and all you have to do is sit back and relax.
Download this guide for more information about using Crowdcast.
You can use Chrome’s accessibility settings to view live captions for Crowdcast events. This page explains how to enable them.