Twilight of the Elites: Who are the meritorious?
Richard Rorty was an American philosopher who encouraged individuals to understand how their thinking was being regimented by representational metaphors which often serve to not to shine new light on a subject, but to perpetuate darkness both for the individual and societies that share them.
Knowing Hayes’ admiration for Rorty, one might expect his newly released book, “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” to re-vision the contingent language of merit in America.
As an egalitarian ideal, when choosing who will have educational opportunities or be allowed to contribute to organisation, we fixate on process with safeguards against corruption by the subjective bias of those taking the measure of the individuals. Hayes makes some examination of the limit of defining merit as that which can be impartially measured.
Repeatedly through the text Hayes questions the fairness and competence of the system of “meritocracy”. Where does Hayes look outside the customary boundaries of the framing of merit? Everywhere he turns, he seems unable to escape the confines of a language of merit that represent anything other than traits such as cleverness, talent, of verbal and deductive agility.
The startling reality is that as individuals we employ a different language for choosing those we personally regard as meritorious. We prefer to admire and celebrate the Bob Cratchits and Fezziwigs of our personal lives rather the sharp and cunning Marleys and Scrooges. It matters little to us how fast a mind assembles an inference, if the heart of the individual leads them to relentlessly apply that power to dark inclinations.
When America’s institutions begin choosing individuals based on the merit in the hearts individuals rather than on the mechanical efficiency with which their minds can produce expected results, we shall be entitled to expect different results from those institutions, and those it brands as elites.