SSP Seminar Series: Getting ahead? Meritocracy and entrepreneurialism in neoliberal culture


Dr Jo Littler (City University, University of London)


Today, ‘meritocracy’ is generally taken to mean a ‘fair’ social system in which people can progress to the top of the social pile if they work hard enough to activate their talent. My book Against Meritocracy: culture, power and myths of mobility (Routledge, 2018) traces the genealogies of the concept and examines how it works through cultural as well as political discourse. It argues that contemporary ideas of meritocracy have been used to justify intensified forms of neoliberal capitalism, and the shredding of social safety nets, by marketising ideas of equality. This paper will outline the book’s argument whilst focusing in particular on the role of entrepreneurialism in relation to meritocracy, from Dragon’s Den through the ‘mumpreneur’ to Donald Trump.

Speaker biography

Jo Littler is Reader in Sociology at City, University of London, an editor of European Journal of Cultural Studies and a member of the Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture editorial collective.

All welcome! There is no need to book.

Our seminar series runs weekly on Wednesday lunchtimes, from 12 noon until 1.30pm.

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