Kristin Shafel Omiccioli's Reviews > Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

Twilight of the Elites by Christopher L. Hayes
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Jun 06, 12

bookshelves: economics, politics, sociology, giveaway-wins
Read from May 24 to June 01, 2012

4.5 stars! I won Christopher Hayes' Twilight of the Elites as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway a few weeks before its publication on June 12. My copy has about forty pages less than the official hardcover copies are advertised to have. The "acknowledgements" section is blank, so hopefully that's all I'm missing!

Hayes begins Twilight of the Elites with the example of his own alma mater, Hunter High School in New York, and how admission to the school depends on a single merit-based test. Seems logical, right? Any child from any walk of life is welcome to take the test: score well enough, and you're in. Equal opportunity. However children of wealthy families disproportionally dominate the classes. Why? Because their families can afford expensive prepping and tutoring. Because, as Hayes explains, equal opportunity does not result in equal outcome. People find ways to work around processes and bend rules in any and every facet of our social, economic, and political life.

Hayes breaks down how various dysfunctions in several American institutions have buckled under the weight of corruption. The accounts of Enron's collapse, José Canseco's "juicing" and the widespread use of steroids in major league baseball, the handling of child abuse accusations in the Catholic Church, and the burst of the housing market bubble were all fascinating and well-articulated examples. He discusses how these implosions have caused a crisis in trust in these institutions, and examines the relationship between authority and trust in detail. The "elites" in his title are defined as a small, powerful group of well-connected people who use either money, platform, and networking to stay at the top. Their control over institutions such as media and the government can skew reliability and competency.

Twilight of the Elites doesn't necessarily offer a definitive a solution or alternative to meritocracy, however Hayes does say equal opportunity must be more closely in line with equal outcomes. The book lays out in writing deeper reasons for the our collective restlessness and the growing distance between our socioeconomic classes. While Hayes does disclose his liberal political leanings, he does not preach—the book's tone avoids any sort of finger-pointing partisanship. It's an informative, accessible read with Hayes' voice clear throughout. A thought-provoking perspective on the "fail decade" and this post-bailout era.
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Reading Progress

05/30/2012 page 108
06/01/2012 page 205
64.0% "Goodreads giveaway! Almost done, 4.5 stars. Really great, couldn't wait to rate it! Full review coming soon as soon as I finish. Lots of thought-provoking discussion of sociopolitical issues in the United States, especially from the last 20 years or so."
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