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Can meritocracy replace democracy? A conceptual framework

journal contribution
posted on 17.08.2020, 00:00 authored by Baogang HeBaogang He, Mark E Warren
Influenced by the example of China, a literature is emerging that advocates a modernized version of Confucian meritocracy, often as an alternative to liberal democracy and even democracy itself. We disagree with these arguments. A critical examination of the Chinese practices of meritocracy within the context of a regime that remains authoritarian is noticeably absent in the literature. This article addresses this gap and, in its findings, argues that political meritocracy, despite first appearances, does not offer a better alternative to liberal democracy. In contrast to many analyses, we do not view ‘meritocracy’ as a regime type but rather as an aspirational ideal that political leaders should have in merit their positions, relative to their functions. We develop a theoretical framework for comparing meritocratic features of regimes centred on a distinction between authoritarian meritocracy and democratic meritocracy. The framework brings into focus the ways in which the authoritarian features of the Chinese political systems undermine meritocratic claims and aspirations.

History

Journal

Philosophy and social criticism

Pagination

1 - 20

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Location

London, Eng.

ISSN

0191-4537

eISSN

1461-734X

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal