Brutal billionaires and the cultural reconstitution of 'merit'

Wednesday 1 March
Room 204, Fred Wheeler Building, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

​This talk is given by Dr Jo Littler.

​This paper traces how the idea of meritocracy – long mobilized as a legitimating principle for capitalism -- has violently mutated in recent years, most dramatically through the punitive promises of Trump and Farage. It begins by examining the various forms meritocratic discourse and ‘meritocratic feeling’ have taken in neoliberal British political culture: from Thatcherite ‘anti-establishment’ authoritarianism through to socially liberal Blairite individualism, and from David Cameron’s ‘Aspiration Nation’ to Theresa May’s ‘Mayritocracy’. In doing so, it shows how such cultural/political discourse either disavows or conjures up the idea of a ‘meritocratic deficit’ and prescribes particular solutions to aid its specific vision of ‘social mobility’. The paper connects this political discourse to an array of examples from the terrains of media and culture.

Jo Littler is a Reader in Cultural Industries in the Dept of Sociology at City, University of London. Her book Against Meritocracy: Culture, power and myths of mobility is coming out later in 2017.

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