The Meritocracy Myth, Fourth Edition

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Product Details
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
5.9 X 8.9 X 0.7 inches | 0.8 pounds

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About the Author
Stephen J. McNamee is professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He wrote previous editions of The Meritocracy Myth with Robert K. Miller, Jr. (1949-2015), who was also a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Balanced, well written, and sharply focused on the vexing question of who gets ahead and why. McNamee challenges anyone who has an opinion on inequality, jarring the contented, encouraging the discouraged, and inspiring the activists. Now in its 4th edition, The Meritocracy Myth remains a necessary and welcome addition to the syllabus of courses on social inequality.
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 socioeconomic class arrangements. The fourth 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."
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 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.
I don't think there is a competitor that accomplishes what this book does--summarize the sociology of inequality in a clear, interesting, and succinct-yet-thorough fashion. The Meritocracy Myth provides a coherent perspective on the world. Many textbooks are a long mishmash of theories and facts; this one has a compelling message and point of view.
The Meritocracy Myth is an accessible text and a captivating subject of study for students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, both undergraduates and graduates. The author provides an excellent introduction to the idea of the American Dream and its tenets as well as the notion of meritocracy as a characteristic and the dominant ideology of US society.
The Meritocracy Myth deconstructs the discourse around the American Dream in a manner that is highly accessible by undergraduate students. Exceptionally well written.
American cultural explanations of success and failure--with their outsized emphases on the roles of hard work and smart choices--offer only a partial understanding of people's fortunes. This makes it difficult for Americans to fully understand social problems like inequalities based on race, class, and gender. Stephen McNamee's important book, The Meritocracy Myth, gives students and citizens alike a much deeper and more complete understanding of why some people succeed and some people fail. McNamee expertly explains how individuals are entangled in a web of forces that interact to shape their fortunes--from the impact of families and schools, to larger economic and political forces beyond our immediate environments and control. The fourth edition includes an additional section on marriage and mobility. To solve our most pressing problems, we need informed, engaged, and responsible citizens--this book is essential reading in that pursuit.
Over and over again, I find myself choosing The Meritocracy Myth over other good books on US inequality. It meets my students where they are and systematically unravels their delusions. I frequently recommend it to colleagues and friends: to economists for the cultural analysis, to cultural sociologists for the structural critiques, and to activists to sharpen their persuasive powers. Most importantly, no one could read this book without becoming fired up to push our society towards fairness.

We are bombarded with messages that if you work hard you will succeed. The Meritocracy Myth deftly unpacks these messages, helping readers understand the processes at work that demystify this myth. With a new chapter on marriage and mobility, this edition deepens our understanding of the ways in which the playing field is not even and the system does not necessarily reward ability and talent. Now, more than ever, this book rings true.