Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011, 7 PM

Tsjalling Swierstra, Evelien H. Tonkens

Meritocracy and the Erosion of Self-Respect

Gesprächsleitung: Prof. em. Dr. Erhard Stölting, Potsdam

Both left wing and right wing politicians strive for a meritocratic society, in which discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity and class are elimnated. In a meritocracy we all have equal opportunies and power is wielded by those with the best mix of talent and hard work.
Western welfare states far from perfect meritocracies yet: gender, ethnicity and class still exert a lot of influence on one’s position in society. Many serious barriers are still to overcome, from discrimination to class-related differences in the quality of education.
Maybe because of these difficulties, there is scarce attention to the dark sides of meritocratic society. For one, it creates an increasingly arrogant elite, convinced they deserved it all by their own effort. Moreover, a meritocracy offers no comfort for the ‘losers’ of the faircompetition. Their self-respect is systematically undermined, as they had every chance but still fail: who else is to blame but they themselves?
Maintaining self-respect is only possible in a deliberately imperfect meritocracy, Tonkens and Swierstra argue.This is in the interests of the ‘losers’ in the meritocratic competition, but also in the interests of society as a whole. The aim of equal socio-economic opportunies is too narrow: we should aim at equal access to self-respect.

Evelien H. Tonkens lehrt seit 2005 Soziologie und Anthropologie an der Universität Amsterdam. Sie schreibt regelmäßig für die Tageszeitung de Volkskrant. Wichtige Veröffentlichungen: De bal bij de burger. Burgerschap in een pluriforme, dynamische samenleving (2006); zus. mit M. Ham und J. Uitermark (Hg.): Handboek moraliseren. Burgerschap en de ongedeelde moraal (2007).
Tsjalling Swierstra lehrt seit 1996 Ethik und Sozialphilosophie an der Universität Twente. Er veröffentlichte zahlreiche Beiträge zu ethischen Problemen neuer Wissenschaftszweige und deren technischer Anwendungen.

2008 gaben sie gemeinsam den Band De beste de baas? verdienste, respect en solidariteit in een meritocratie heraus.

The event will be held in English