The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World (Hardback)Adrian Wooldridge (author)
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Offering a stimulating tour of the history of meritocracy, Wooldridge shows how the principle of putting talent before hereditary privilege has shaped the modern world, how corruption and nepotism have disrupted its recent progress and what can be done to revive its advance.
Shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2021
Meritocracy: the idea that people should be advanced according to their talents rather than their status at birth. For much of history this was a revolutionary thought, but by the end of the twentieth century it had become the world's ruling ideology. How did this happen, and why is meritocracy now under attack from both right and left?
Adrian Wooldridge traces the history of meritocracy forged by the politicians and officials who introduced the revolutionary principle of open competition, the psychologists who devised methods for measuring natural mental abilities and the educationalists who built ladders of educational opportunity. He looks outside western cultures and shows what transformative effects it has had everywhere it has been adopted, especially once women were brought into the meritocractic system.
Wooldridge also shows how meritocracy has now become corrupted and argues that the recent stalling of social mobility is the result of failure to complete the meritocratic revolution. Rather than abandoning meritocracy, he says, we should call for its renewal.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 496
Weight: 697 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 34 mm
'This unique and fascinating history explains why the blame now being piled upon meritocracy for many social ills is misplaced-and that assigning responsibilities to the people best able to discharge them really is better than the time-honoured customs of corruption, patronage, nepotism and hereditary castes. Wooldridge upends many common assumptions and provides an indispensable back story to this fraught and pressing issue.' - Steven Pinker
'The Aristocracy of Talent provides an important and needed corrective to contemporary critiques of meritocracy. It puts meritocracy in an illuminating historical and cross-cultural perspective that shows how crucial the judgment of people by their talents rather than their bloodlines or connections has been to creating the modern world. Highly recommended' - Francis Fukuyama
'superb ... Wooldridge, the political editor of The Economist, quite brilliantly evokes the values and manners of the pluto-meritocrats at the top of society ... They would do well to read Wooldridge's erudite, thoughtful and magnificently entertaining book. They will find many uncomfortable truths in it.' - James Marriott * The Times *
'The Aristocracy of Talent is finely constructed: fluent insights include the importance of Plato's distrust of democracy, on the grounds that it tended to lead to tyranny, and his insistence on the need for a leadership of experts.' - John Lloyd, The Financial Times
'This masterly book offers a robust defence of meritocracy.' - Lord Willetts, The Economist
'hugely stimulating ... a spirited defence ... of meritocracy itself, made with cogent arguments ... a valuable, thought-provoking book' - Noel Malcolm, The Daily Telegraph
'... a timely book that is a reminder that meritocracy, for all its flaws, may well be, like the democracy it has sometimes served, better than the alternatives ... told with a wealth of erudition in brisk and readable prose' - Darrin M McMahon, The Literary Review
'The Aristocracy of Talent is both an exhaustively researched history of an idea and a many-sided examination of the impacts of its imperfect execution.' - Mike Jakeman, Strategy + Business
'There are few terms whose origins are more misunderstood than "meritocracy". So Adrian Wooldridge has performed a public service with his latest book, The Aristocracy of Talent.' - Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times
'... kudos to Adrian Wooldridge... for producing a full-throated defence of the principle' - Toby Young, The Spectator
'... an omniscient and impassioned polemic ... Some of us have been waiting a long time for someone to do what Wooldridge has done: nail the lie that there is something shameful about success honestly earned' - Daniel Johnson, The Critic
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