6 May 2022


The Myth of Meritocracy

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Academic level: University

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Considering the idea of the American Dream, America is the country where one may find endless opportunities to thrive, limited only by one’s merits. It follows that one may derive from the system the measure which one has put into it. Therefore, to get ahead in such a society, one needs to have intrinsic abilities, appropriate attitude, moral character, and integrity as well as being hard working (Leistyna, 2015). An individual’s background, according to this myth, does not matter much; rather, the focus is on merits. 

The myth of meritocracy holds that resources in the society are distributed mainly on the basis of an individual’s merit. This theory, however, does not imply that “merit” is a myth. Meritocracy remains to be a myth because of several factors, including luck and the evolving nature of job opportunities, inheritance, social and cultural benefits, discrimination, and the decline of self-employment (Leistyna, 2015). Given that meritocracy is a mere myth given the nature of the current society, there are ways of modifying the system to follow some of the beneficial principals of meritocracy. 

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First, the society should work towards eliminating some of the most evident forms of discrimination, particularly racial and gender discrimination. For meritocracy to be a reality, everyone should have equal opportunities of getting ahead. The presence of discrimination indicates that one may have the proper merits for upward mobility yet they are hindered because of their innate characteristics (Leistyna, 2015). Second, the wealthy should consider redistributing larger amounts of their possessions through philanthropic activities so that the less privileged would have more opportunities. Education, for instance, is vital for upward mobility yet there are many intelligent and hard-working people who fail to get into higher education because they come from low-income backgrounds. Third, the tax system could be tailored in such a way that it works towards reducing the gap between the higher class and lower class members of the society. According to Leistyna (2015), Meritocracy is almost impossible with the current distance between those at the peak and the bottom of the system. Finally, the government should channel more resources towards providing an equal access to essential services including health care and education. All of these actions are likely to decrease the overall level of disparity in the society and, in turn, promote meritocracy. 

While meritocracy promises a reward that is proportional to one’s input, it may not be entirely desirable. The limits and risks of a system working entirely on a platform of merit are adverse. Ultimately, meritocracy is likely to result in a society where members of the higher class rule autocratically with a notion of worthy entitlement while those of the lower class remain incapable of defending themselves against the oppression they experience from the merit elite on top of the system (Leistyna, 2015). From this point of view, meritocracy is somewhat ruthless and cruel rather than bringing about a fair and enlightened civilization. 

The benefit of a society that lacks meritocracy is that are any instance, given certain reasons, some of the individuals who are less privileged yet they are competent to sit above those that are privileged in the system. Thus, those are at the bottom gain dignity and have a sense of hope while at the same time the ones at the top become humble (Leistyna, 2015). It follows that merit is not the only factor leading to one’s position in the system. It should be appreciated that such factors as luck, inheritance and other combinations of circumstances have an impact on one’s class in the society. In other words, the myth of meritocracy is harmful because it ignores certain crucial causes of inequality. A non-meritocratic society, on the other hand, neither exalts the high class nor condemns the low class.


Leistyna, P. (2015). 'Class Dismissed' How TV Frames The Working Class. YouTube. Retrieved 12 February 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QSlyq7tSYs

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). The Myth of Meritocracy.


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