Always be wary of how you decide to define ‘success’. David Cameron represents the best education that tax avoided money can buy and achieved, what some might consider, a level of success that few will match but would anyone in their right mind consider David Cameron a success? It is why Theresa May’s lauding of ‘meritocracy’ should send chills down everyone’s spines. She will almost certainly consider that she and her colleagues represent greatness elevated to its natural position within society and will conveniently ignore the cumulative advantage that got her and her colleagues there. Scarier still is that we permit the socio/psychopaths who become elevated in our society to define success and to then try and define how success is achieved.
If the likes of Theresa May were capable of being honest about their ‘success’ they would acknowledge the cumulative advantage that they have benefited from and they would acknowledge that we live in a society that permits those cumulative advantages to hold a disproportionate and defining influence on ‘success’ within our society. If any of these people were serious about ‘meritocracy’ then you first introduce measures that strip away, incapacitate, and counteract cumulative advantage. They will never do that because they will never voluntarily give up their advantages.
The conversation of ‘meritocracy’ and ‘social mobility’ always centers on how cumulatively disadvantaged people can elevate themselves out of their cumulative disadvantage. How cumulatively disadvantaged people can generate enough ambition to lift themselves out of their cumulative disadvantage. How cumulatively disadvantaged people can aspire their way out of their cumulative disadvantage. The focus is always on the cumulatively disadvantaged because it permits the advantaged to keep their advantages. Some cumulatively disadvantaged people do elevate themselves out of it, they do have the ambition and aspiration but they are also reliant on luck because, of all those who have the ambition and aspirations and graft, only a tiny percentage elevate. Yet, almost none of the advantaged lose their advantages.