Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meritocracy Round 4

Continuing fromRound 1, Round 2, and Round 3 we pick up on Part 2 of the book: Decline of the Lower Class.  This section sets up a review the consequences of  progress for the lower class; declaring that before the Meritocracy took over, while socialism was working to chip away the value of being born wealthy there was a golden age of equality.  Some people advanced on their own merit, and others on the tails of their family but this whirligig ensured the powerful where always unseated.  The chaos of the system gave the lower class the illusion they had been given opportunity to do something different with their life.  It gave life to the dreams they never lived.

In that age, there was benefit to mixing of class as the intelligent upperclass had much in common with the intelligent lowerclass, when merit put only the unintelligent into the lower class the riff was greater.  The people that achieved success had not reason to doubt themselves as they had claimed this prize as a result of  their merit.  Without the impostor syndrome effect and humble beginnings to temper the meritorious people's perspective they saw less and less reason to approach dealings with the lower class in an altruistic fashion.  The author notes it as more of a public relations matter, thinking that it was a matter that training could clear up.  The meritocracy created a system where we where the unmeritorious only had themselves to blame for their status, causing them to loose faith in degrade further (reinforcing negative sentiments).  The situation was not as bad as it could have been because of 5 reasons.  First, the lower class had a mythos of honoring  strength (athleticism) the way the upper class honors honored smarts, that gave the lower class some (limited) ways to achieve some form of recognition.  Second, the adult education center and mental heath treatment gave people a way to bloom later in life (either because of intelligence coming to them later, or being a better thinker as they work through their mental health issues). Third, parents could take solace in the fact that their children (or grandchildren) could through their own merit achieve great things (Transference?), and Fourth they were blessed to be to ignorant to realize how bad their lot in life really was.  The fifth and most important reason was the implementation of meritocracy in industry.  It draws on lessons from WWII that found grouping people with other of similar intelligence improved their morale because they felt they where competing on equal footing for promotions and perceived themselves to have a more fair chance.  The army found that people could be taught more readily and would get along better with people of their own intelligence (or lack there of).

There was some question of what to do with people rated as just smarter than rocks, as the socialists fought against giving them the worst and least desirable jobs.  They argued about the dignity of the worker, but the author dismisses this as "pre-merit" thinking.  He argues that after inheritance was displaced that the notion of equality of man was show a farce.  Men are most notable for their inequality of endowment!  What is the purpose of abolishing inequalities in nature but to expose and pronounce the inequalities of nature?  Young continues on that each according to their ability, no more no more made the whole of society more satisfied (failing to note that it also is causing the uprisings).  He says that without science studying human relationships resentment for declining status would have boiled over long before.  In essence if it had been too uncomfortable it wouldn't have been tolerated, so the lower classes complacency was always a part of their lowering.  Automation in the 60's was an excellent way to view the systematic trouble of the meritocracy.  As machines grew ever more complex, more was demanded of those that built, serviced or designed them and less of those that operated them until the operators  where displaced permanently.  The advances in testing helped to identify what employers where just carrying some employees.  The high churn was because some of the employees where unable to produce labor of any kind due to their lack intelligence, testing helped identify how poor of employee's they actually where.

This lead to a new kind of unemployment, people where deemed essentially useless and no one knew what to do with them.  This gave rise to a proposal to begin training the poorly equipped to take over the menial tasks of their betters (grocery shopping, cleaning, ect.).  It gave the truly unintelligent something to do, and the Home Help corps laid down guidelines for how domestic servants would work and be paid to prevent a return to slavery.  The value to the meritocracy here was doubly realized by the women.  meritorious women whom upon marriage still took on much of the household labor, and unmeritorious women that make up the bulk of the Home Help corps.   Th author notes that the merit based selection system made for a stable, though intricately balanced society.  Believing it to be permanent would be a folly.

I realize I'm already getting pretty long on this summary, but there are only 3 more chapters and Michael Young had a lot of things to say in his short little book.  I took 19 pages of notes and only have 5 more pages left to go, so I'm hoping that I can wrap this up here relatively quickly in 2-3 more posts.  Bear with me here, there are a fair number of articles and related thoughts to draw in once I get done with the summary.

Continue to Part 5 >>>

1 comment:

  1. The lower class values athleticism while high class values intellect? I don't imagine our NFL and NBA stars would be very big fans of Meritocracy then, would they, if that meant they had to be lower class?

    Looking forward to the next post.