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Other titles in the Political Quarterly Special Issues series:
The Rise and Fall of the Meritocracy (Political Quarterly Special Issues)by Geoff Dench
Synopses & Reviews
It is now fifty years since Michael Young wrote The Rise of the Meritocracy — a sociological fantasy set in the twenty-first century and portraying a sinister, highly stratified society organised around intelligence testing and educational selection. After some difficulty getting published, it was an immediate success and became very widely read. But it does not seem to have had the influence that Michael most wanted for it, over Labour Party thinking. The story was intended to help turn Labour away from meritocracy, by reminding it of the importance of communitarian values. Curiously, though, half a century later we have a Labour Government declaring the promotion of meritocracy as one of its primary objectives.
So what is going on? This book offers a variety of opinions. Building on a conference held to mark the half-centenary of Michael Young’s Institute of Community Studies, it contains commentaries by a selection of academics, journalists and politicians, from Asa Briggs to David Willetts, on the origin, meaning and future of meritocracy.
Book News Annotation:
Michael Young wrote The Rise of Meritocracy shortly after founding the Institute of Community Studies in 1954, but his ideas were barely incorporated into the work of the Institute. To mark its half-centenary the Institute hosted the conference Reviewing Meritocracy to put an end to the separation and neglect. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed to The Young Foundation. Young himself among them, social scientists, philosophers, and other scholars mostly from Britain but also from the US, cover the meaning of meritocracy, life experiences of various groups in contemporary Britain, and the implications of both for current political agendas. The 24 essays, some solicited after the conference to smooth out the coverage, were first published in a special 2006 issue of The Political Quarterly. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The term "meritocracy" entered the English language with the publication of Michael Young's
Like so many of the postwar generation in Britain, Peter Hennessy climbed the ladders of opportunity set up by the 1944 Education Act designed to encourage a more meritocratic society. In this highly personal book, Hennessy examines the rise of meritocracy as a concept and the persistence of the shadowy notion of an establishment in Britainand#8217;s institutions of state. He asks whether these elusive concepts still have any power to explain British society, and why they continue to fascinate us. To what extent are the ideas of meritocracy and the establishment simply imagined? And if a meritocracy rose in the years following 1945, has it now stalled?
With its penetrating examination of the British school system and postwar trends, Establishment and Meritocracy is an important resource for those concerned about the link between education and later success, both for individuals and their societies.
Fifty years after the term "meritocracy" was coined, this book asks where the idea of meritocracy has led. A team of commentators consider diverse topics such as family and meritocracy, meritocracy and ethnic minorities, and what is meant by talent Contains commentaries by a selection of researchers, activists and politicians, from Asa Briggs to David Willetts, on the origin, meaning and future of meritocracy Demonstrates that Michael Young, who wrote "The Rise of the Meritocracy," was right to question the viability of political systems trying to organise themselves around the idea of meritocracy Essential reading for everyone interested in where we are going, and the future of New Labour itself
About the Author
Geoff Dench is a senior research fellow of the Young Foundation, and was formerly head of sociology and social policy at Middlesex University. He has written a number of books on ethnic relations and on family relationships, and edited several collections.
Table of Contents
Notes on Contributors.
Introduction: Reviewing Meritocracy: Geoff Dench.
Part I: Origin and reception.
The Labour Party as crucible: Asa Briggs.
Meritocracy in the civil service, 1853-1970: Jon Davis.
A tract for the times: Paul Barker.
We sat down at the table of privilege and complained about the food: Hilary Land.
The chequered career of a cryptic concept: Claire Donovan.
Looking back on Meritocracy: Michael Young.
Part II: Relevance to modern Britain.
A brief profile of the new British establishment: Jim Ogg.
Face, race and place: Merit and ethnic minorities: Michelynn Laflèche.
Marginalised young men: Yvonne Roberts.
The unmaking of the English working class: Ferdinand Mount.
Age and inequality: Eric Midwinter.
Ship of state in peril: Peregrine Worsthorne.
Part III: Analytic value.
The moral economy of meritocracy: Irving Louis Horowitz.
Japan at the meritocracy frontier: From here, where?: Takehiko Kariya and Ronald Dore.
Just rewards: Meritocracy fifty years later: Peter Marris.
What do we mean by talent?: Richard Sennett.
Resolving the conflict between family and meritocracy: Belinda Brown.
Meritocracy and popular legitimacy: Peter Saunders.
Part IV: The future.
The new assets agenda: Andrew Gamble and Rajiv Prabhakar.
New Labour and the withering away of the working class?: Jon Cruddas.
A delay on the road to meritocracy: Peter Wilby.
Putting social contribution back into merit: Geoff Dench.
Ladder of opportunity or engine of inequality?: Ruth Lister.
The future of meritocracy: David Willetts.
Notes on Contributors.
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