Merit vs. Equality: Careers Open to the Talents

  • Russell NieliEmail author

La carrier est ouvérte aux talents—the career open to the talents—was an ideal popularized by Napoleon in the early decades of the nineteenth century. It meant that positions in the expanding French civil service and military would be filled by those who were most qualified to carry out the tasks required of them. In the feudal society from which France was rapidly emerging, in which hereditary position and privileges of class were often the rule, the idea was revolutionary, and had great appeal to talented, ambitious young menmen like Napoleon himselfwho sought to rise up in the world through ability and hard work. In the middle of the following century the idea was given a name by the British sociologist Michael Young“meritocracy.” Unlike Napoleon, however, Young didn’t think a society that became stratified on the basis of talent and such innate traits as intelligence (as ascertained by formal testing) was much better than a fixed-status, feudal order stratified by the...

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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