Social Stratification and Mosca’s Argument
Traditional meritocracies exemplify the American Dream of working hard and bettering oneself to achieve status and success. Documented qualifications and proven skill are the keys to success (Openstax, pg. 126). As many endeavors to achieve the American Dream go, the United States fails to exercise perfectly fair meritocratic decision-making. The United States embodies a flawed and conditional meritocracy. Meritocracy is seen in university grants for students; but is conditional when the university donates to ‘legacy’ students over those whom are more qualified. While universities show excellent good will in offering chances to those who might not experience a higher education otherwise, those ‘legacy’ decisions are occasionally made to reinforce a family tie to the university in a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ manner when the time comes for a donation (Forbes, 2015). A ‘legacy’ student with that university grant might be an unmotivated student with poor work ethic; where a student in need who works part-time, volunteers, competes as a tri-sport athlete, is student body president, all while achieving a 3.5 GPA might not, because they are a first-generation university-goer (this actually happened to one of my friends in high school). Here, the high-achieving student still gets admitted to the university based on merit, however, financial aid is offered to the student with connections. Meritocracy is also conditional in the work-place. Favoritism, racism, and ageism might not come into play during the hiring process for an Equal Opportunity Employer; but they can become relevant when a promotion is at stake. An elderly RN with an Associates Degree and 50 years of experience could easily be replaced by a 26 year old nurse with a fancy new Bachelors Degree in Nursing with only 3 years experience because they had connections with the hospital. One might argue that this change is meritocratic because the younger nurse has both experience and more schooling, however, a couple more years of school to attain a degree cannot compete with 50 years of hands-on, real-life experience.
I identify most with Mosca’s perspective on social stratification because that is what I have personally experienced and seen. I believe the United States has good intentions with its (flawed) meritocracy, and hope that altruism exists like we would like to believe it does. However, there is much more evidence over time across the world that supports the idea that the leadership necessary to maintain organization within a society leans toward seizing greater rewards for themselves. Without diving into an in-depth political discussion, Mosca’s argument can be supported by the two-party political system in America. Regardless of how ethical and reasonable a candidate from the Green or Libertarian party might be, the Democratic and Republican parties reign supreme; and our Supreme Court is overwhelmingly populated with Democrats (Inside Gov, 2016). Those other-party candidates who might be more qualified might not have a chance because the President elects people who will support their ideas; which equivocates to using their power to seize greater rewards for their party. This has been both wildly successful, and wildly destructive to our nation at different times, but Mosca’s theory is evident.
While identifying most with Mosca’s argument, I believe humans’ egotism is a product of the society we have experienced. When we experience competition or hardship, we tend to focus on ourselves for self-preservation or protection.
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