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New book by Harvard professor published in China

By Wang Ru | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-10-21 15:32

The Tyranny of Merit [Photo provided to China Daily]

The Tyranny of Merit: Can We Find the Common Good, a book by Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel, was recently published in China by Beijing-based publisher CITIC Press Group.

Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. His writings, usually about justice, ethics and democracy, have been translated into 27 languages. His popular course Justice has been made freely available online and on television, and has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world.

According to Sandel, "I wrote this book to challenge my students, university students in China, and successful college graduates everywhere, to rethink the meaning of success."

Meritocracy, which means economic goods and political power should be vested in individual people on the basis of merits like talent, effort and achievement, is followed in many countries, and considered a core idea of the American Dream.

In this book, Sandel points out that despite meritocracy seeming to be equal, it actually leads to arrogance in the elite and hatred of the lower class. It makes the successful ones believe their success comes from hard work and ignore the influence of opportunity and luck, and thus look down on the unlucky ones.

"This way of thinking about merit and achievement, about who deserves high pay and social esteem, has a corrosive effect on social cohesion. It creates a deep divide between winners and losers," Sandel said.

By analyzing the nature and objectives of education, how to find value in work and the meaning of success, he guides people to think about the possibilities of seeking common good by people from all classes and explore more measures that are beneficial to promoting social fairness.

"This book asks how we can find a less anxious, more generous, more humble way of understanding success, one that points us toward a greater sense of responsibility for common good," Sandel said.

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