Why is meritocracy considered false, and alternatives offered

I sometimes need to explain why is meritocracy not accepted. And, since I couldn’t pinpoint a single reliable article about it, so to send it over for a quick read, here it is one now.

Quick premise #1: this is a summary of publicly available information

I provided many links too.

Quick premise #2: what is meritocracy, what is productivity

Meritocracy” is a societal framework in which achievements are considered to be obtained through “productivity”.

Productivity” is the ability to create more than we consume.

Meritocracy examples

Timmy studied well for the exam, and got a good degree. 

Frank is a good plumber, and his ability to help his clients gets him good work.

Productivity examples

One day, Timmy will be a doctor. Through using years of study, he’ll create hundreds of years of life for other people – who would, otherwise, not live at their full due to health problems. Or, at the very worst case, not live at all.

Practical examples

Timmy studied 8 years to be able to cure Peter. Thanks to this, Peter was given the possibility to live the rest of his life. 8 years of Timmy’s time generated 70 years of time for Peter.

Frank fixed Luke’s sink in 1 hour. Thanks to this, Luke didn’t have to spend 1 month learning how to fix the sink by himself. 1 hour of Frank’s time generated 1 month of time for Luke.

Why is “meritocracy” deemed false

Not only not everyone adopts meritocracy as a framework: its adoption is in constant decline.

Here’s some examples of opposing views:




Summarized very quickly this point of view:

meritocracy is considered false because “productivity” is considered an unfair metric

meritocracy is considered false because people are intrinsically unable to make fair productivity judgements

Why is “productivity” not a fair metric

Productivity, the main pillar upon which “meritocracy” stands, is considered not to be a fair metric for the following reasons:

Disagreement with existence of internal motivation and free will

He who doesn’t believe in “meritocracy” believes that people lack intrinsic motivations ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-agency ): what people do is entirely consequence of their context. The infamous nature/nurture equation, for them, is 100% nurture (and the just mentioned self-agency, inexistent). Hence: individuals don’t matter. Only groups matter. Because your ideas and personality are going to be 100% reflection of the “group you belong to”.

Taking those “meritocracy” examples given before, here’s an updated version of them. Seen through these new lenses:

Timmy studied well only because he grew up in an environment who led him to study well. 

Frank is a good plumber only because he grew up in an environment who led him to be a good plumber.

Why are people considered unable to make fair judgements on productivity

Not forgetting what just said about “productivity” (the how it’s not a fair metric), we also have to take into account that people belong to groups – and, since freedom of thought is just an illusion, and all of who we are is due to the group we belong to, we’re gonna be naturally and unconsciously biased to favor who belongs to our group.

Timmy studied well only because he grew up in an environment who led him to study, and his teacher acknowledged so with a good degree only because they belong to the same group.

Frank is a good plumber only because he grew up in an environment who led him to be a good plumber, and he gets to work only because his clients belong to his same group.

What are “groups”, and why are they considered vital to understand people

“Groups” are the “human features” you can be described with. They’re based on many factors, some of which are: ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality… They’re, more or less, what your identification document has written on.

Since, as stated, individuals are deemed incapable of truly personal ideas, and what they believe to be their ideas are in fact 100% consequence of what experienced by belonging to a group, what truly matters is what group you belong to – think of groups as a factory for mass produced goods, and said goods being people: millions, and all the same. You don’t need to look each product to understand them: all that matters is the mold from which they were made of.

So: productivity is not your achievement – but your groups’. And, since intrinsic motivation doesn’t exist, it’s not even an achievement: it’s just a status quo – a condition upheld through social means. As in: things that are so because we believe them to be so.

What alternatives are offered

Since “meritocracy” is false, some alternatives have been offered.

None of them is based on “productivity” – since, as noted, productivity is deemed not to be a reliable metric.

The single biggest trend, right now, is sharing quotas: since “productivity” and “meritocracy” are fallacious concepts, and that achievement is just a matter of putting people in the right social context, the suggestion is to bestow achievements (rather than let them be a consequence of “meritocracy” – since, as already noted, “meritocracy” is considered false), and splitting them between the many groups.

E.g. I have 100 job offers, and 1000 candidates belonging to 5 different groups. Since productivity and meritocracy are fallacious concepts, I’m not gonna hire based on that: I’m gonna identify who belongs to which group, and hire based on that.

Some currents of thought believe in splitting achievements in an even manner (from now on, everyone gets the same),

E.g. I hire 20 candidates from each of the 5 groups.

Some others in splitting achievements taking into account how much did these groups have been given in the past, aiming to have an equal split of achievements throughout the entire timespan analyzed (taking into account an extended timespan, by the end of it everyone has to have achieved the same).

E.g. Since, during previous recruitment efforts nobody from group #3 and #5 has been hired, this time I’m gonna hire only people belonging to group #3 and #5 – until each group has an equal number of employees.

“What should I do?”

This article is not about “What’s best”: it’s a summary of public available information.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *