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This article offers a critique of the meritocratic system of higher education in the United States, which reproduces economic inequality while purporting to provide an objective means of sorting students into occupational positions of skill, responsibility, and authority. Other dysfunctions of meritocracy include the channeling of elites into avaricious economic pursuits, inequities in the financial rewards associated with actual contributions to the common good, and a culture of elitism that separates the privileged from the less privileged members of society. Meritocracy also has political implications for building electoral coalitions and instituting meaningful educational reform.


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20 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Meritocracy and Its Discontents

  • Journal title
    • International Social Science Review

  • Volume
    • 97

  • Issue
    • 4

  • Date submitted

    20 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Ronald J. Berger is a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.