“Meritocracy” in the Middle East

Article by David D’Amato.

CNBC reported recently of powerful Bahraini banker Khalid Abdulla-Janahi’s call for a “culture of meritocracy,” an appeal accompanied by the assertion that “[c]apital needs stability,” to be provided of course by the state. He added that meritocracy was consistent with the people’s desire for “dignity,” that the goal was to “restore confidence” in the financial system. The words of this magnate of the Arab financial establishment are more revealing of the foundational fallacies of statism than perhaps he realized, hinting at what the state’s “meritocracy” really means.

Although entirely defined by and dependent on the use of force, the state survives by taking advantage of the lie that its system is one of voluntary relationships and the reward of hard work. “Meritocracy,” then, becomes the explanation for the class structure that exists today, allaying the concerns of those who bother to consider the division of wealth (the “have”/“have not” divide) at all.

We can all rest assured, we’re told, that the enlightened bosses know best and that their decisions are based on careful deliberation of technical specifics that we simpletons couldn’t understand anyway. The substance of American meritocracy, though, does not match its attentively cultivated reputation.

In Organization Theory, Kevin Carson quotes Joe Bageant as maintaining that, in spite of America’s meritocratic mythos, “[t]he empire needs only about 20-25% of its population at the very most to administrate and perpetuate itself.” That class of managers is made up of the “caterers” to the rarified top of the corporate heap, while the remainder of the populace comprises “the production machinery of the empire.”

Carson goes on to demonstrate that, rather than genuinely educating, the state’s school system, from kindergarten through graduate school, is designed to render disciplined, uncritical cogs in the state-corporate machine.

The class composition of the state has always been based on what is popularly called “the Noble Lie,” an idea famously illuminated in Plato’s masterwork of political philosophy, The Republic. Plato held that the good or ideal society, the one that would provoke the proper virtues, had to be based on an “ingenious falsehood” that would protect the purity of the ruling class and keep everyone content in their place in society.

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