Although an infinitesimal number of Americans have degrees from Harvard or Yale Universities, 33% of the top decision makers in the second Obama administration did. So do eight of the country’s nine sitting Supreme Court Justices. Is this a positive sign that the United States is governed by its most talented and capable members who have risen through hard work and equal opportunity? Or a negative one pointing to the power of a corrupt and self-selecting elite? This course explores the theme of meritocracy — rule by the intellectually talented — in comparative perspective. We will look at both old and new arguments regarding the proper role and definition of merit in political society as well as take the measure of meritocracy in present-day Singapore, France, and the United States. The course concludes with a focus on the current debate over American meritocracy and inequality.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: two papers, take-home final exam, class participation
Extra Info: not available for the fifth course option
Enrollment Preference: Political Science and Sociology majors, first-years and sophomores intending a Political Science or Sociology major
Distributions: Division II;
Attributes: POEC Comparative POEC/Public Policy Courses; PSCI American Politics Courses; PSCI Comparative Politics Courses