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The Rise of the Meritocracy

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  295 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Michael Young has christened the oligarchy of the future "Meritocracy." Indeed, the word is now part of the English language. It would appear that the formula: IQ+Effort=Merit may well constitute the basic belief of the ruling class in the twenty-first century. Projecting himself into the year 2034, the author of this sociological satire shows how present decisions and pra ...more
Paperback, 198 pages
Published January 31st 1994 by Routledge (first published 1958)
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Anthony Buckley
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Like 1984 and Brave New World, The Rise of the Meritocracy, written in 1958, provides one of the great dystopian visions of the twentieth century. What makes the book peculiar, however, is that modern politicians have unashamedly taken the values of “meritocracy” – including the word itself – and have claimed them as the central and most desirable feature of a modern society. This is therefore a deeply subversive book rarely mentioned in polite society.

Michael Young became famous among British s
Meritocracy, what a great idea! Surely it's a good thing that people advance based on talent, instead of who their parents were.

We just have to make sure that everyone has equality of opportunity to do so and we'll have a fundamentally fair society, right?

The unnamed author of this book, writing in the distant year 2033 certainly believes that. He's the product of an age where comprehensive education reform has channelled unprecedented levels of funding into identifying the most adept students
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The 1st part of the book can be a little hard to get through, as the author opted for a writing style similar to what you would expect of an article on social sciences, but that serious tone makes the 2nd part delightful. The satire of having a "meritorious individual" expose this merytocratic society through his highly biased point of view is not only entertaining, but tackles several important points that were relevant not only when this book first came out, but more so today. ...more
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I came across this book as being the origin of the word meritocracy a few months ago and since then have heard reference to it several times; it is one of those things where once it gets on one's radar appears to be everywhere. I was rather excited to read this cute little novella; dystopia sociological novels are usually rather entertaining.

And yet, it was rather disappointing. It is obvious satire and I was expecting illumination as to why modern meritocracy is so dysfunctional. Instead, I see
Keshav Bhatt
Lord Young coined the term 'meritocracy' and was a prolific social innovator - founding a plethora of organisations from School for Social Entrepreneurs to Open University. In this satirical essay he writes about a dystopian future where Britain is governed by an elite selected through IQ. It's written from the perspective of an anonymous author & academic who is making the case for this brand of meritocracy. But is juxtaposed throughout with small hints of Young's real thinking. A society based ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing

It is an amazing insight into how society works, how families work, and how good intentions go astray. It is really important that people realise that the term meritocracy, which we now wave around as if it was the one thing we could all agree on as a good thing, was actually coined for this satirical novel…and it’s not the arrival of nirvana.
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always thought this book was a little gem ... Much overlooked in reviews on dystopian literature ...
Bob Nichols
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Using a narrator who writes from a post-2033 fictional retrospective and uses England as a case study, Young argues that the old class division between haves and have-nots has been replaced by a new division of the same. In the older days, the aristocracies of privilege and inherited wealth reaped societal benefits for themselves. That division broke down over time due to a variety of historical factors. Then industry, technology and trade required talent to be competitive, and WWI demanded skil ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Michael Young is the guy who invented the word "meritocracy", which encapsulates the notion that the ruling class should comprise those who are the cleverest; "not an aristocracy of birth, not a plutocracy of wealth, but a true meritocracy of talent". It is a seductive and compelling argument. Of course we shouldn't allow one's birth and family circumstances to determine one's station in life. "Merit" should be the determining factor. Little wonder then that the words "meritocracy" and "meritocr ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
In February this year, Bagehot, The Economist's Britain columnist, penned an article about the importance today of Young's book from about 60 years ago. For Young, and that is rare case not only in today's Isles, but also in Europe and the world, meritocracy, even at its most egalitarian moment, risks not only to miss her actual value, but also to deepen the antagonisms between classes. Young, a Labor member, and one of the Party's foremost ideologues was prescient in recognizing this as a drama ...more
Alice Lemon
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this back in high school, without realizing that it had been intended as a dystopia until about half-way through. It certainly came off as very disturbing and dystopian, though, and helped form some of my early understanding of the problems with capitalism.
Ralph Jones
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 20th-century
Remember the days when you have to compete with other kids in school to be on the top for grades? Or when people or your own family pressure you to study hard and do well in life because with success comes rewards and merit. What people forget is that not everyone is born with certain privileges that allows them a boost in life compared to others. However, our world now is different than what Young wrote when he published this book.

The Rise of Meritocracy by Michael Young is about that kind of w
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A bone-dry dystopian satire written in the form of a charmingly pompous sociological treatise. Rise of the Meritocracy is perhaps less palatable than Huxley or Orwell, but it’s far more bitingly accurate in its predictions.

Written in 1958, this book by sociologist Michael Young features a totally fictional sociologist named Michael Young who, writing on the eve of revolution in 2034, reflects on the past century of human social, political, and economic development in order to explain how things
An interesting read with an unusual approach to show a problem in the society. This book is an essay on the English society shaped by a new form of social rulers, the meritocracy. Set in dystopian 2033, it told the story in chronological steps from the new Act which allowed the basis of The Labour Party and the socialism to be formed from 1870 to 2033. Reading this book in 2019, some of the predictions which Michael Young has prophesied in 1958 rang true.

This book argues on how dangerous the ri
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is Lord Young's infamous book in which he coins the word 'meritocracy' and writes about the dystopian future where Britain is run by an elite picked out by intellectual strength measured by IQ. Young argues that such a society is far from egalitarian, but merely creates a class structure based on educational qualifications and metrics of intelligence. ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deliciously satirical with a karmic ending.

"Within the span of human history age has been the most enduring ruling class: once established, every aristocracy, every plutocracy, every bureaucracy, has also been a gerontocracy; and even under democracy, government by the people, of the people, for the people, meant government by old people, of young people, for old people."
Ronak M Soni
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The problem with meritocracy is, of course, that there is no such thing; and yet, it serves as a seemingly objective foundational myth for the distribution of power within our society. AKA "the poor are just lazy and dumb; I for one worked my arse off to grow the wealth I inherited at exactly the rate of inflation."

But that criticism, for Mr Young, is weak af sauce: even if true meritocracy existed, even if wealth wasn't inherited, even if smart people didn't have to abandon their ambitions for
Julius Lehtinen
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopia, 2018, bookshelf
The Rise of Meritocracy is an underrated and for some reason less popular dystopian novel right on par with Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World by Michael Young, the coiner of the word meritocracy.

In the novel, a fictive sociologist recounts his account and understanding of the events and development that led to the modern state of affairs in 2033. From aristocracy to democracy to meritocracy, society got rid of deciding things based, first, on heritage, then on equal voting. In the end,
Sep 11, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this book because I heard so many times how the author has been misunderstood, how this book is the same as 1984 or Brave New World.

While I do understand the author's intention was to write a dystopian novel, it's so hard to grasp that it's no wonder most folks didn't understand it (or maybe didn't even finish it).

In the preface, the author mentions how he struggled to be published, and someone said they didn't publish thesis papers.
While this is most definitely not a thesis paper since i
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic piece of work that anticipates the politics of meritocratic ideas.

Ultimately, he is wrong in identifying intelligence as the determinant of success in the meritocracy. What makes things even more pernicious is the role of nurture (as opposed to nature). Social mobility falls as parenting becomes more and more intentional. The result is upbringing is just as important (if not more so) than Young's intelligence. This pushes us towards the dystopian situation of the final chapter in whic
Jordi Galiano
Apr 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Mixed opinions about it. During the reading I felt similar feelings than when I was reading Brave New World. Both books try to explain an original idea inside a novel. However, where both books shine is in their original ideas and the short essays that are implicit during the whole story. I would like to mention that during the end of the book, Young presented in two pages the great discussion that has been present on the meritocracy field. Morality of what it is fair and what it is not, economi ...more
Adam Calhoun
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Michael Young coined the term 'meritocracy', a word that is on everyone's lips these days - and apparently an idea that has been on everyone's lips for a long time.

A bit of a dystopia, a bit of a satire, The Rise of the Meritocracy is a fictional history written in the future about the events that led to a permanent meritocratic elite.

Unfortunately the writing is dry and extraordinarily repetitive, and Young doesn't have enough ideas to fill out this very short book. It's okay for historical rea
Joe Thacker
May 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
My rating is 2 stars.

How my rating works:

5 = Changed how I viewed the world
4 = A must read but not revolutionary
3 = I recommend to read
2 = Give it a quick read if interested in the topic
1 = Do not read.

One of the first people to see and write about the downside of meritocracy. The issue is the book just isn’t good. Amazing topic, poor read. But the downsides of meritocracy is a core issue of our times as it relates to inequality, or the justification of inequality/libertarianism.
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
It's a somewhat interesting satirical essay, but too long and meandering for me to really enjoy it. However, it has made me more aware of efforts to try to set up some kind of meritocracy, where the "elite" become those who are judged to be the most intelligent, by whatever metric that is, and schools, tests, funding, and curriculum (STEM) is centered around them. ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Genius and more valuable than ever in these confused times. Young did love his little games that rather mess with the reader's grasp on what exactly is being spoofed, satirized, savaged and suggested as better but if one takes the time to allow oneself a full set of reactions, including chucking it across the room every few pages, it is such a rewarding read. ...more
Imad Ahmed
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Doesn't quite take us to the logical conclusion of what a meritocracy would mean because he makes some assumptions along the way, but he signposts these, e.g. unequal wages. Essentially it would give rise to a new entitled aristocracy that would aim to behave in the same way as its predecessor to advantage its own children. ...more
Iqra Tasmiae
Feb 23, 2020 marked it as to-read
Read of it while reading Wikipedia of Genghiz Khan which led to the Wikipedia of meritocracy. Genghiz Khan's practice of meritocracy helped in advancement of Mongol empire. ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The meritocracy is not. It is not a good thing.
This book is available on Kindle but as of 2020-07-19 it's $47.
Physical copies are about $35.
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
a searing satire of a meritocratic world. it's fascinating to see how the meaning of the word changed so drastically since its inception. ...more
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Michael Dunlop Young, Baron Young of Dartington, British sociologist, social activist and politician.

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