In reading David Brooks' NYT op-ed column on The Power Elite, I was struck by his candor. His thesis: Despite our society becoming more meritocratic, the public standing of the power elite has plummeted.
A paraphrasing of his five reasons as to why:
1. Our definition of merit or talent is too narrow; specifically, that technical ability and knowledge are valued, and sensitivity to context is often ignored.
2. Meritocracy has created new social chasms; the elites now live near and marry other elites, and share fewer social attitudes and lifestyle patterns with the other classes.
3. The leadership-class solidarity is weaker as they vie against each other instead of working together.
4. Time horizons have shrunk: elites think less on passing their mantle to their clan and more on getting as much done as soon as possible. This can encourage recklessness.
5. Society is too transparent; the more we know about the inner-workings of the government and corporations, the less we trust them.
This analysis is very insightful, but I am compelled to question whether all of these reasons are bad. And if any of them are, what can be done?
Personally, I think society isn't too transparent. There's nothing wrong with a little scepticism to keep the elite in check. Throwing out number five. The other four, however, have merit. Heh heh.
Being sensitive to context, connected with other classes, cooperative, and responsible come with better training of the elite, which could simply come with time. As society becomes more aware of these problems, the nature of merit will change, diminishing all of these problems. I think any call for more extreme action might fall into the trap of number four.
I'm a believer in personal change and impacting the society immediately surrounding an individual. You know, the whole think globally, act locally maxim.