In This Review

Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy
Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy
By Christopher Hayes
Crown, 2012, 304 pp.

Hayes, an editor-at-large of The Nation and host of the MSNBC talk show Up With Chris Hayes, has written a perceptive and searching analysis of the problems of meritocracy. Over the last two generations, recruitment into the top ranks of American life has had less to do with background and breeding and more to do with the ability to score well on tests and otherwise impress admissions bureaucracies at prestigious schools. The winners in this system, whether they become well-paid investment bankers, top professors, or senior government officials, believe that their prominence (and the rewards that go with it) are well deserved. Hayes has his doubts, and although some of his specific arguments are rooted in the language of the left, the critique of meritocracy is also a traditional staple of conservative thought. Given the poor records of elite individuals and elite institutions in recent years, the debate over meritocracy will likely become more intense.