Sunday 18 September 2011

Meritocracy is merito-crazy

It is good to be aware of this. We live in a meritocracy. We are told we deserve to be what we are. If we go well, it is our merit. If we go bad, it is our own fault. The positive outcome of meritocracy is that it makes us work and that is good. But it is essentially based on a lie. We are not what we deserve to be. If we go well, it is not our merit. And if we go badly, it may be our own fault, but it usually isn't.

Why do I tell this today? Well, this morning, the gospels brought us the parable of the workers in the vineyard, one of my favourites. This parable basically tells us that God is against meritocracy. He rewards us according to our needs, not according to our merits. And if we go well, it is essentially by grace, not by merit.

Moreover, also 'secular' philosophers like Alain de Botton have pointed out that today's extreme meritocracy causes status anxiety and destroys happiness. The truth is: we have much less control over our lives than we think. If we don't go too well, we should do our best, but we shouldn't be blamed. And if we go well, we should recognise how lucky we have been to get there.

So we should admit that the waves of fortune are somewhat beyond our control. Management thinkers should also recognise this. Let us get rid of our merito-craziness.

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