The crisis of liberal democracy hardly makes the news today: so often has its imminent death been announced. Yet over the last 15 years organizations responsible for monitoring freedom and democracy in the world have reported a trend of globally declining quality of democracy. Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the pace of this trend has accelerated. Different hypotheses for what went wrong have been advanced.
Recently an intriguing explanation for the weaknesses has emerged: meritocracy is to blame. Meritocracy has been a central liberal promise which has arguably delivered unprecedented economic and human development. Against this success, the cascading critiques against meritocracy may come as a surprise. How can meritocracy be a main cause for the current crisis and a prime driver for growing populist support? In this talk Smilova addressed the strong link between the dominance of the meritocratic ideal and the global rise of populism, and offered an evaluation of the main critiques against meritocracy, asking is meritocracy to blame for democracy’s crisis.
Ruzha Smilova is program director at the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, and senior assistant professor at Sofia University.
IWM Permanent Fellow Ivan Krastev moderated the talk.