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Distributed for Haus Publishing

Establishment and Meritocracy

Like so many of the postwar generation in Britain, Peter Hennessy climbed the ladders of opportunity set up by the 1944 Education Act designed to encourage a more meritocratic society. In this highly personal book, Hennessy examines the rise of meritocracy as a concept and the persistence of the shadowy notion of an establishment in Britain’s institutions of state. He asks whether these elusive concepts still have any power to explain British society, and why they continue to fascinate us. To what extent are the ideas of meritocracy and the establishment simply imagined? And if a meritocracy rose in the years following 1945, has it now stalled?

With its penetrating examination of the British school system and postwar trends, Establishment and Meritocracy is an important resource for those concerned about the link between education and later success, both for individuals and their societies.

96 pages | 3 graphs | 4 1/2 x 7 | © 2014

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Political Science:

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“The value of this book . . . is that it is a picture from the inside. If you want to know what the establishment thinks of itself, look at this.”


“A ruling class based on meritocracy is the great goal. In Establishment and Meritocracy, Peter Hennessy describes meritocracy and the ruling establishment as ‘a pair of trains running on parallel tracks throughout the postwar society, taking on extra passengers and baggage by the decade.’”

New Statesman

“Written with lucidity, learning, and typical wit.”

The Tablet

Table of Contents

The Twin Themes       
Revival and Rise
A New Landscape?
A Secret Establishment?
The Power of a Word
Catching a Mood
An Enduring Impact
Did the Meritocracy Rise?
The Prototype Meritocracy in Trouble?
The Pursuit of a ‘Well-Tempered Meritocracy’
A Very British Pursuit
Conceptual Vitality?

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