Justice and the Meritocratic State
Routledge Press 2018
New Books in EconomicsNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in LawNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network August 13, 2018 Lilly Goren
Thomas Mulligan’s new book, Justice and the Meritocratic State (Routledge Press, 2018), posits a theory of justice that is based on the allocation of valuable goods (jobs and appropriate income) according to merit. This is an abstract concept that Mulligan details according to economic, philosophical, and political understandings. He weaves together the political and economic dimensions of meritocratic allocations and spends the latter part of the book noting policy ideas that can bring this abstract concept into being. In the process, Mulligan critiques contemporary concepts of justice, especially commenting on the 20th-century work by Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Leo Strauss, and post-modern philosophers. The argument made for meritocratic allocation of valuable goods is seen as a kind of third way between the limited nature of egalitarian theory on one side and libertarian theory on the other. The argument for “desert”-based justice also brings the ideal of the American dream into clearer focus in Mulligan’s analysis. His book explores this concept in great detail, clearing up what has been the murky nature of an understanding of what meritocracy really means. Throughout the book, Mulligan delves into concepts of meritocracy from classical authors like Socrates/Plato and Aristotle, as well as from eastern approaches. He explores the integration of an understanding of meritocratic governance and political power from Confucian political theory as well as from much of the western philosophical canon. This book spans a variety of disciplines, and may be of interest to political theorists, economists, philosophers, sociologists, and others. It is clearly written and takes the reader through not only the concept of meritocracy and desert-based justice, but also the role of economics in understanding justice, and, finally, the kinds of policy and rhetorical shifts that are necessary to more fully establish a meritocratic state.