The Meritocracy Myth / Edition 2

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The Meritocracy Myth challenges the widely held American belief in meritocracy-that people get out of the system what they put into it based on individual merit. Fully revised and updated throughout, the second edition includes compelling new case studies and new material on current topics such as the impact of the financial and credit crisis, intergenerational mobility, and the impact of racism and sexism.

The Meritocracy Myth examines talent, attitude, work ethic, and character as elements of merit and evaluates the effect of nonmerit factors such as social status, race, heritage, and wealth on meritocracy. A compelling book on an often-overlooked topic, the first edition was highly regarded and proved a useful examination of this classic American ideal.

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Editorial Reviews

This well-written and researched book on a neglected topic is a must-read. Essential.
This well-written and researched book on a neglected topic is a must-read. Essential.
Ronald C. Wimberley
Every sociology student should read this clear and compelling book, and their instructors should too! The Meritocracy Myth reminds many of us why we became interested in sociology in the first place. And I suspect that many sociology students will soon find the same.
Beth Davison
The Meritocracy Myth exposes the deceptive American rhetoric that hard work, talent and virtue are all that is necessary to make it to the top. With inequalities at the core of sociology, The Meritocracy Myth makes a valuable contribution to the field by closely examining the contributing mechanisms that perpetuate class disparities. For sociology students, reading The Meritocracy Myth is a great application of important sociological concepts and theories to explain how all of our lives are influenced by socio-economic class arrangements. The third edition is as relevant as ever in highlighting the importance of cultural myths that justify the exceedingly inequitable distribution of wealth in our modern society.
Judi Kessler
The Meritocracy Myth deconstructs the discourse around the American Dream in a manner that is accessible by, and doesn't talk down to, the typical undergrad. Exceptionally well-written.
Paul Durrenberger
In the land of opportunity, hard work and playing by the rules pays off and merit is rewarded by success.The wide-awake sociology of McNamee and Miller shines the bright light of reality on the myth to show that birth counts more and education less, and while luck is important, no one can count on it and those who play by the rules often benefit least.
Inc. Book News
McNamee and Miller explain that meritocracy is a myth and that there is no substitute for starting in advance of others in life, and that being female or a minority definitely makes you start behind. In this third edition, they lay out proof while streamlining their narrative. They examine the origins of the American dream, analyze the case for a merit-based system, and discuss the issue of inheritance (the "silver spoon"). They then go into the truth: social and cultural capital, education and mobility, and the luck factor count more than simply hard work. They describe other factors, such as the decline of self-employment and the ascent of corporations, racism, and sexism. They close with the observation that meritocracy is growing more and more into being a myth as inequality grows in the twenty-first century.
Journal of Economic Literature
Revised and updated third edition presents a challenge to the widely held American belief in meritocracy and considers the effect of nonmerit factors such as social status, race, heritage, and wealth of upward mobility. Discusses the American dream...racism, sexism, and other forms of inequality, and growing inequality in the twenty-first century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742561687
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/16/2009
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 495,347
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen J. McNamee is interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is the recipient of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, The University of North Carolina Wilmington Distinguished Teaching Professorship Award, and the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors Teaching Award.

Robert K. Miller Jr. is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has published widely on the topic of social and economic inequality and is coeditor with Stephen J. McNamee of Inheritance and Wealth in America.

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Table of Contents

1 The American dream : origins and prospects 1
2 On being made of the right stuff : the case for merit 21
3 The silver spoon : inheritance and the staggered start 49
4 It's not what you know but... : social and cultural capital 71
5 Making the grade : education and mobility 95
6 Being in the right place at the right time : the luck factor 117
7 I did it my way : self-employment and mobility 137
8 An unlevel playing field : racism and sexism 155
9 Discrimination by any other name : other isms 181
10 Running in place : the long wage recession 197
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