Combined Arms Consulting

The Tyranny of Merit

Review by - Dr Leon Levin

Reviewed: 29 Feb 2024

The Tyranny of Merit

By Michael J. Sandel

Rating: 4/5




Decision making

Tyranny of Merit

The Tyranny of Merit

These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favor of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the doctrine that "you can make it if you try". The consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has fueled populist protest and extreme polarization and led to deep distrust of both government and our fellow citizens--leaving us morally unprepared to face the profound challenges of our time.

This frustration can be linked to the corporate world where decisions give preference to the "qualified-informed". That is not to say that the importance of a solid background is not important - having been versed in several academic disciplines I can testify to the importance of structured knowledge, but relying on that background as a source of data means that decision-makers will miss out on creative alternatives. also having a Ph.D. or privilege does not automatically assume an ethical bent.

Michael J. Sandel argues that we must rethink the attitudes toward success and failure accompanying globalization and rising inequality to overcome the crises that are upending our world. Sandel shows the hubris a meritocracy generates among the winners and the harsh judgment it imposes on those left behind and traces the dire consequences across a wide swath of global life. He offers an alternative way of thinking about success--more attentive to the role of luck in human affairs, more conducive to an ethic of humility and solidarity, and more affirming of the dignity of work. The Tyranny of Merit points us toward a hopeful vision of a new politics of the common good.

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