Although far less than 1% of American college and graduate school students attend an Ivy League university, 40% of the top decision makers in the second Obama administration did. Is this fact a positive sign that the United States is governed by its most talented and capable members who have risen through hard work and equality of 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 China, France, and the United States. The course concludes with a focus on the current debate over American meritocracy and inequality and will include one or more of the following authors: Joseph Kett (Merit), Charles Murray (Coming Apart), Tyler Cowen (Average is Over), and Christopher Hayes (Twilight of the Elites).
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, two or three short papers, and a final paper
Enrollment Preference: Political Science and Sociology majors, first-years and sophomores intending a Political Science or Sociology major
Distributions: Division II;