ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Modernity and Meritocracy

Searching for a Fourth Way

The vision of a meritocracy is integral to modernity, resting upon principles of achievement, individualism, and the primacy of academic knowledge. Each of these is now debated, particularly the claim of individual contributions to merit. Among the four responses that are possible, a multifactor approach to social inequality in selection, social interventions, and institutional, academic support may actually be truest to modernity’s promise of freedom and fairness.

This is the revised version of a talk given at the Maraa Free Speech Festival in Bengaluru on 26 March 2016.

The debate over reservations seems to be a never-ending one. Perhaps, it raises so much dust and fury because it touches upon some fundamental questions of our time. My view, in a nutshell, is that reservations have helped but are really not very important; much more needs to be done. This merits some elaboration.

Before today’s reservations made their appearance, the world was still full of reservations of another kind. Kings chose their courtiers from those they trusted. So this usually meant reservations for networks of kinship and community. Who became rich and powerful was influenced a great deal by the family into which one was born. Whether it was the Mughal empire or the Marathas, they appointed their officials by choosing from networks of caste, kinship, and community. We love to vilify the British, but we must also acknowledge that it was through them that an idea of West European modernity—that organisations should recruit through open tests and that selection should be only on the basis of merit—began to inform Indian institutional practices.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 30th Nov, 2017
Back to Top