DOI link for Introduction
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of the book. This book argues that it is not merely a coincidence that a pronounced lack of social mobility and the continual importance of inherited wealth co-exist with the common idea that we live in a meritocratic age. In particular, over the past few decades, the language of meritocracy has become an alibi for plutocracy and a key ideological term in the reproduction of neoliberal culture. The book shows how different constituencies have been encouraged to adopt meritocratic ideas for a range of historical and cultural reasons, and how they have been persuasive. It explores some of the different genealogies of meritocracy in terms of changes in social and cultural theory, identity politics and political discourse. The book considers case studies which present and disrupt meritocratic myths of mobility and popular parables of progress.