• The Tyranny of Merit

  • What’s Become of the Common Good?
  • By: Michael J. Sandel
  • Narrated by: Michael J Sandel
  • Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.  

These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favour of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the promise that 'you can make it if you try'. And the consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has fuelled populist protest, with the triumph of Brexit and election of Donald Trump.  

Michael J. Sandel argues that to overcome the polarised politics of our time, we must rethink the attitudes toward success and failure that have accompanied globalisation and rising inequality. Sandel highlights the hubris a meritocracy generates among the winners and the harsh judgement it imposes on those left behind. He offers an alternative way of thinking about success - more attentive to the role of luck in human affairs, more conducive to an ethic of humility and more hospitable to a politics of the common good.

©2020 Michael J. Sandel (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Tyranny of Merit

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Só fala o óbvio.

Encontrei várias objeções e justificativas para o fracasso do homem americano médio. Nenhuma proposta de solução.
Este discurso vindo em uma época em que a igualdade entre as pessoas é a maior da história do país me parece hipocrisia e um avalao retrocesso.

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Profoundly enlightening

I was today years old when I realized that my thoughts and beliefs about the systems of merit were fundamentally flawed. This book not only explains why, but it gives practical recommendations for what we can do to rectify the unintended consequences of these systems. A fascinating read

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Great book!

Brilliant ideas to improve mankind and society. Even though it focuses on American society, the same principles apply to make other societies more humane and give their less favored members the opportunity of a happier life.

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Before revolution

Great analysis of the predicament most developed societies have landed. I find my own actions hugely influenced by the meritocratic bias. I never questioned it, I was on the receiving / winning side of that reality. It is really worth reconsidering the whole meritocratic construct. But, I am afraid not much of the criticism would ever be adopted, the rich and powerful will have too much too lose.

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So important for our time of tumult

If only everyone could read this book, the world would have a chance of organising itself in a fair fairer and just way. Brilliant in every way:

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thought provoking and inspiring

loved it! will listen again. it has challenged my notions of systems of reward and success.

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Interesting point

This is the 4th books I read following Justice What is the right thing to do?, what money can’t buy? and Public Philosophy and this book by Mr. Sandel. When we look back in the past and it’s become even more evident now that society seem to praise on the more educated and success is measure on the level of wealth and opportunities to govern the less unfortunate and low income, in which would create even more inequality and income gap, to put Meritocracy in perspectives, we all need to understand the limit of merit system and how we look at our success that is suggested in this book, but in term of practical, it would be other challenging !

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  • Stuart Robertson
  • 11-05-20

a unified theory of discourse as we know it

such a phenomenally good concept, I think the tyranny of merit beautifully explains european and American politics now. I would love to recommend it to friends but unfortunately the book is too repetitive and solutions to the problems explained are weak. I wish he had a better editor! just listen to his interview on the podcast reasons to be cheerful you'll save 10 hours

9 people found this helpful

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  • K. Charman
  • 10-04-20

Towering, complete, perfect

Every academic, professional, cosmopolitan, graduate, higher than average income earner (or should we say “taker”, should read this book in front of a mirror and then ask whose fault it is that Brexit, Trump and other forms of populism are unravelling liberal democracies.

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  • An amateur
  • 05-15-21

Beautifully humane, almost spiritual

Loved the message and gave me warm fuzzy feelings.
Completely resonated with the message of returning to humility and being less harsh towards those who are not lucky enough to have certain traits deemed to be of "value" and "high in merit". A stance against elitism, and one that stands with many people driving the populist movements.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-14-20

Thought provoking and rewarding

I’m new to Audible so I don’t know if it’s usual for the author to read but Michael Sandel’s voice is so distinctive that it’s an essential element to my overall assessment. I found his thesis struck a profound cord with me and one that society as a whole should be clamouring to hear. One needs to concentrate of course but he lays out his argument methodically and calmly by which I mean that his tone is neutral, not judgement as I at first expected, and won me round convincingly over the course of the book. His analysis makes eminent sense of many events of recent past and gave structure to my own unarticulated thoughts.

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  • Tony Fitzgerald
  • 09-12-20

Well written critique of meritocracy

Sandel's book is a lucid discussion of the 'rhetoric of rising'. it's an informed critique of meritocracy/credentialism and its role in the rise of right-wing populism.
Sandel's reading is to be commended too.

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  • Rachel Winters
  • 09-01-22

Author unsuitable narrator

I really wanted to listen to this book, but I just found it too much to try and heave through it with the author at the helm of the audio edition. I gave it a fair shot, but it was impossible to finish. I will probably buy a hard copy, but the author should have handed over tone narration to a professional and not tried to tackle it himself.

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  • Mrs. S. J. Boni
  • 07-24-22

The rise of populism explained

An interesting perspective on the rise of populism and failings of the neo Liberal ideal. Covers some very thought provoking concepts.

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  • Stakeout
  • 07-21-22

if you felt like life is a struggle...

..... Michael postulates credentialism and the pervasiveness of higher education government are a symptom of the wider prejudice, elitism, which has been exposed here as key, polarising factor in the recent populist backlash... he also shows that the expectation that the more educated being better suited to govern is a conceit. Michael returns to the premise that the lack of societal stock in what constitutes 'the common good' frequently and takes this a step further, detailing how mixed 'opinion' on what the common good, in these days of Fox News Vs NYT or Daily Mail Vs BBC. Only question I have is how would you enliven political discourse to the willfully ignorant, if not by educating...!?

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  • LR
  • 05-19-22

A truly eye opening view

This book led me to question some fundamental beliefs I held about the meaning of merit and the purpose of each individual in society. I would highly recommend it to readers from all walks of life and political persuasions.

It gives a sensible explanation for the rise of phenomena like flat earthers, antivaxxers and populist ultra nationalist political parties which were previously incomprehensible for me.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-04-22

Informative text... read haltingly

I am taking away a number of valuable lessons and ideas from this book. My one critique. is the Shatner-esque. delivery. of the text. The halting. style. of delivery. adds distraction. rather. than clarity.

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  • Sid
  • 09-28-22

Insightful and important

This book is a brilliant insight into the social and political climate we find ourselves in. A must listen/read.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-05-22

Sandel tells a very important and timely message.

The final few chapters are the highlight. Insightful and important communitarian diagnoses of, and solutions to, our present circumstances.

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  • Nicolette Findlay
  • 03-11-22

Finally and explanation to why life feels unfair.

In life we are taught life is unfair. This finally explains how "fairness" is dished out. It's sobering but also hands back dignity to those of us who live and honest life of useful contribution.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-24-21

For better understanding the politics of our day

If you want to hear a new angle that will enrich your understanding of our current political moment then please try this book.
Michael traces the possible origins and supporting justifications for current American political thought then thoroughly illustrates the various holes therein. He explains well the reasons why people are so divided and frustrated today and points to a better way forward for politics and society.
The most profound statements are mainly found in Chapter 7. If you only read one chapter, make it that one!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-27-21

Moralistic preaching without practical solutions

The author spends 80% of the book moralising about haves and have nots while not really supporting his premise. While he provides strong evidence that meritocracy unchecked leads to a class hierarchy in society, he doesn't provide any useful suggestions on how to fix the issue or consider the economic impact of the world being any other way than meritocratic.

Very US centric, get ready for quotes about how many times various US presidents over the past 50 years have used a problematic phrase.

He even sneaks in the term "equality of condition" which is a thinly veiled approximation of "equality of outcome".

Even if you agree with a premise, the author states his idea and then beats that dead horse for another 2 hours in each chapter without adding value beyond the first 10-20 mins. His arguments are all moral and disconnected from pragmatism.

Save yourself the time and read a summary or listen to his interview with Sam Harris.

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