Alexander's Reviews > Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

Twilight of the Elites by Christopher L. Hayes
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's review
Jul 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: political-economy
Read in June, 2012

The best book yet about our current crisis of authority, it explains how that authority has been compromised by elites who ignored their responsibility to uphold the legitimacy of the government. Hayes fundamentally questions the logic of the system that brought these elites to power in the first place - not democracy, but a meritocracy in which those with the most talent presumably rise to leadership and provide societal guidance. As you might expect, Hayes points to numerous studies showing that the United States has seen the flexibility of its class structure calcify. But he goes further - much further than you'd imagine from a television anchor - to explore how those at the top remain at the top by rigging the very notion of meritocracy to their advantage. But that rigging has a price, and that's ultimately the subject of the book: the price is that the system if not the idea of meritocracy itself loses legitimacy when gamed as it's been gamed for decades. The result is popular cynicism and anger toward elites that transcends ideology and institutions. Making things right will require a shift in moral behavior by elites that even Hayes concedes is unlikely.

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