We live, more than we have for generations, in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favour of the already fortunate. COVID-19 has invited a new conversation about what work matters most to us, what work is ‘essential’. As we’ve seen, often this is work which is the least rewarded with pay and status in our society. During a pandemic that has exposed the true value of essential work, stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the promise that "you can make it if you try". We have increasingly come to view the money people make as a sign of their worth. The consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has fuelled populist protest and extreme polarisation – economic, cultural and political - and has led to deep distrust of both government and our fellow citizens, leaving us morally unprepared to face the profound challenges of our age.
In conversation about Michael Sandel's forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Merit, Professor Michael Sandel and Jon Cruddas MP ask whether meritocracy undermines the common good, and what can be done about it. Looking towards the recovery, how do we best reward those that contribute to the common good, and reclaim the dignity of work?
The book can be ordered at https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/313112/the-tyranny-of-merit/9780241407592.html