Thursday, October 11, 2012

Meritocracy Round 6

Continuing from Round 1Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, and Round 5 so begins the Chapter 7 summary.  This chapter begins with a bold declaration that Classes and Castes are universal (Natural Order perhaps?), and the level of harmony between them in dependent on the distribution of resources according to the moral code.  In this instance the author indicates that something in 2005 stabilized and the harmony had been stable since, as long as you don't count the discontent that this whole book is about I guess.  In essence when inheritance was wiped out you had to compete via merit for a high paying job, the poor no longer took offense to those that had more, they had earned it after all.

The socialist begrudgingly tolerated the elitist attitudes because for instance they as well as everyone else wanted the best care they could get when they where ill.  What they bemoaned was the pay gap, keeping in mind Young has cast the Socialists as believing everyone is equally deserving of everything.  The hard part for stability was choosing a mandate to decide the relative fairness on, as there where many perspectives on the issue.  The silencing of this debate was key to stability, and was achieved with the 2005 equalization of income act, so that everyone gets the same pay.  I think Young was jumbled on his thoughts here or more specifically he failed to carry his solution to the logical finish when he wrote it.  In any event he continues on as if everyone got the same pay, and said the difference in incomes for the elite comes from employer provided services (maids, secretaries, home, cars, ect.).  He justifies this system where the government is the ultimate wage payer so profits go to the government  by saying that wealth generated must be reinvested to stay competitive with other countries in the future.

What should have been a marvel of having the whole country on the same pay grade is instead called a hypocrisy, the elites are more rich than previous elites because of this facade.  The trouble ultimately begins with when it's a battle of wits to determine the distribution of assets the new low class has the deck stacked against them.  In earlier parts of this chapter he talks about different pay grades inside of companies so I felt Young lost his way a bit on this chapter, or at least didn't clearly delineate that the pay grade discussion was for pre-2005 companies.  In any event I think the rest of the book you are supposed to believe that in terms of money everyone gets payed the same, but that the elites get cool free stuff as a part of their having a job.  Surprisingly I think that this type of a system would be more fair than our current set of elites that often don't "work" any more.  They have so much money that they live off of investments, or other people working.  If they wouldn't have the benefit of fancy cars and nice houses without having a job, you would see a very different attitude towards the rich.

In chapter 8 we really finally get to the meat of this book and look at the present day, life under the meritocracy.  The author notes that the Meritocracy isn't perfect, but rather a balance, and believes that until sociology develops as much as the other sciences there will never be a frictionless society.  Even with that in mind the resistance to the meritocracy doesn't make sense to the author so he explores where the spark for the resistance came from.  It started with women he thinks, that went to work as lower grade labor rather than in their earned place.  The tried to convince their fellows of the injustice that was being rained on them.  Sadly there was no common will to raise up as these intellectuals where "day tripping" as laborers and didn't know the technicians hearts.  They did however plant a seed to encourage smart people to stay as technicians rather than pursue advanced education they where entitled to, that their intelligence would be available for their fellows.  An intellectual education counterculture if you will, and a grassroots movement grew up from there.  They never had a good idea for how to go about it as most that could advance wanted to.  The tact that found purchase was to argue that physical labor had was as valuable as intellectual labor that can be satisfying by it's own right (There are seeds of this in our current society see Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance, or the results of this search).  They where questioning how we came to ascribe one person more value than another one?  And argued the ability to expand production made sense when war was eminent but couldn't we broaden the definition of value?  The resistance group produced the 2009 Chelsea manifesto claiming the aim of the group was to cultivate variety, that felt that the inequality reflected a narrowness of values.  In a reversal of what the meritocracy had built they called for a return to common schools to cultivate an appreciation for diversity and to nurture the children's contentment.  Arguing that people should be free to pursue the things they are truly great at, and able to enjoy the full spectrum of human experience.

So who where these women that worked with the lower class laborers?  Young titles this section the modern feminist movement, and from here it gets interesting.  Some of the women mentioned didn't marry and settle down, rather continued in their quest to overthrow the Meritocracy (those evil women!).  The reasoning as to why the did this the author believes is related to the biological role, and how the women are supposed to stop work for some time to raise their children as that is considered the noblest job (likely buy the men of the meritocracy).  During this time they transfer their frustration with not being able to have true biological equality with men to the authority figure of the state and fight for equality they can win (or so the author believes).  He does concede that the meritocracy is still asymmetrically benefiting men more than women which does add to their reasons to protest the status quo.  Another rallying point is the practice of marrying for intelligence, as the insurrection favors romance and beauty.

Perhaps spurred by the resistance, the meritocracy has moved in legislature to have have the hereditary nature of intelligence guarded with guaranteed education for their children, in essence undoing the whole meritocracy's advancements.  The story sort of takes a swerve here into the silly in my opinion, but in the fictional future social scientists developed methods for reliably testing intelligence by knowing the intelligence of the parents, as if intelligence is set by your genes.  With the evidence that their children where in fact superior, what was the point of equality of opportunity?  The outcomes where set there was no need to bother placating the dumb of the society.  The author notes that the truly bright tend to have slightly less bright children and the truly dull have slightly less dull children and thus trend towards average, but that the extremists of the new conservatism didn't care, while the more moderate offered a compromise of a limited window for rechecking.  The final straw, that started outright resistance and the events that where outlined at the beginning of the book was the practice of kidnapping promising babies for the elite to raise as their own and shipping of their dumb offspring to be raised elsewhere.

Though they where the move by the conservatives to restore heredity after it took two centuries to tear it down was met with revulsion as it was an attack on the values of society as a whole, so even if the New Feminists also represented an assault on some of the core of the Meritocracy it upheld equality of opportunity and for that is perceived as more moral.  Without the antagonism of the conservatives, the women's movement would have had no support.  Though they capitalized on the conservatives actions as well as they could, the movement was merely riding the mob, not guiding it.  I disagree with that assertion that there would have been no support as the structural inequality of the meritocracy probably would enough to garner some support, even if it wasn't as much as they received with an enemy to the common man.

The response in the Parliament was to remove the most far right elements from power, and promise not to do the most offensive things they had suggested, leaving the author to believe that the rebellion was defanged.  He died at a rally in Peterloo where he thought the rebellion would fall apart without a common enemy.

There is a footnote at the end that is quite telling and sums up better than I can hope to.

Since the author of this essay was himself killed at Peterloo, the publishers regret that they were not able to submit to him the proofs of his manuscript, for the corrections he might have wished to make before publication.  The text, even in this last section, has been left exactly as he wrote it.  The failings of sociology are as illuminating as its successes.
So ends The Rise of the Meritocracy, and more thoughts to come!

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