The dark side of meritocracy

Michael Sandel, professor of political philosophy and ethics at Harvard University, takes a long hard look at the system of merit and finds several flaws. For one, opportunities aren’t equally accessible to everyone. What’s more, those who achieve success on account of merit begin to think of it as a virtue, taking full responsibility for their win when instead, they should be directing most of their gratitude to various other factors that allowed them to win. After all, a tall basketball player can only be a hero in a country where basketball is a craze, and he can’t even claim full responsibility for his height! What’s worse, Sandel argues, when merit becomes a virtue, failure becomes a vice. And that leads to a lot of anger and resentment. Watch edited excerpts of Michael Sandel, author of The Tyranny of Merit, in conversation with HT Associate Editor Dhamini Ratnam.