The first monograph is entitled Meritocracy and the knowledge society: Different views on meritocratic criteria and the role of experts in society (Dr. Maruša Gorišek). Here is the abstract:
Meritocracy is a central concept of modernity and directly embedded in the world as it is known today. In modern, democratic societies, we expect others to judge us based on our actions and achievements, not due to family origin, race, religion or other factors (Wooldridge 2021). One can define meritocracy as in essence being as a social principle of choosing for, or allocating, positions based on an individual’s merit, ability, competence, knowledge and effort. As a principle, it moves away from the division of social positions according to family affiliation and inheritance, as has been the case for most of human history.
The idea that a job should be performed by those who are the most qualified and competent for it is directly related to the idea of the knowl- edge society as a human resource management strategy. Although con- temporary societies are not perfect knowledge societies, knowledge and technological progress are ever more important and large parts of economic development and competitiveness increasingly depend on innovation. Still, rapid technological progress and globalisation, accel- erated by the ever-growing importance of knowledge in society, also brings new risks. We live in a risk society where risk is omnipresent and we are constantly aware of it, which is changing our lives.
So where can we place meritocracy in this context? We have in recent years seen a great expansion of literature on meritocracy, especially among Anglo-Saxon authors, which is mainly critical of the concept. They describe meritocracy as a concept that leads to a com- petitive and hierarchical social system that promotes elitism, only serves as an ideology that reproduces inequality, and in which some will always be disadvantaged (Littler 2017; McNamee 2018; Markovits 2019; Mijs and Savage 2020), while encouraging individualism, eroding feelings of community (Sandel 2020) and blaming those at the bottom for being there (McNamee 2018; Mijs and Savage 2020). On the other hand, some authors believe that inequality is not a key component of well-being in the context of human progress and that meritocracy can benefit everyone (Pinker 2018), and that meritocracy is responsible for shaping the modern world such that doing away with it could mean the end of the modern world as we recognise it (Wooldridge 2021).
There is no clear-cut answer to the question of the role and influence of meritocracy in society. While most of the authors mentioned above view meritocracy in terms of social mobility and inequality, this is not the only way the concept can be explored. Further, the concept of mer- itocracy primarily depends on our understanding of meritocracy, i.e., which aspects do we reward.
This book examines aspects of meritocracy often overlooked or in- sufficiently considered in the literature. We therefore proceed by as- suming that meritocracy is, at least to some extent, an inevitable part of the knowledge society, notably with regard to the promotion of knowl- edge and management of human resources, and that meritocracy is not the only regulatory principle in society and in this sense a pure mer- itocracy does not exist in an ideal form in real society as it is always embedded and dependent on other social circumstances. Ultimately, we also assume that meritocracy is not a one-size-fits-all concept and can be understood in various ways in different social environ- ments, circumstances and social subsystems.
A discussion unfolds in the volume about the concepts and theories of the knowledge society and the risk society. The circumstances in which we are analysing the concept of meritocracy are presented. If meritocracy is to be understood also in terms of knowledge promotion in society, we must pay attention to those considered by society as holding the greatest knowledge. Experts in essence embody a meritocratic logic as they are individuals possessed with an above-average level of knowledge that sees them recognised and valued in society and being sought after to give opinions, advice and suggestions for action. We deal with the questions of who we understand to be and who defines an expert, and which kinds of knowledge are being promoted.
Meritocracy is also discussed comprehensively from a theoretical point of view. All of the aspects to which a meritocracy refers, or the so- cial processes it affects (concepts of social justice, mobility and inequal- ity, education, measuring merit and the wider social context of govern- ance). We note that opinions on meritocracy vary chiefly depending on the environment and aspect of meritocracy to which authors are refer- ring. Some view meritocracy from the perspective of social inequality, others from the perspective of level of education in society, and others still connect meritocracy with political processes.
The latter half of the book presents the results of a research study in which meritocracy was considered in three different contexts. First in an international comparison where a combination of quantitative data was used to evaluate the role of knowledge and meritocratic criteria in European countries. Based on interviews, we then examined how different social subsystems in Slovenia understand the meritocracy concept, how they use it and which kinds of skills and knowledge they promote. The last context is considered in the fourth chapter where meritocracy is viewed in the context of the risk society, using the recent COVID-19 pandemic as a case study. This chapter outlines the results of a critical analysis of the discourse and content analysis of various sources and investigates how the relationships between experts, politicsand the public unfolded while managing the pandemic in the European and especially Slovenian context.
The overall finding of this book is that meritocracy in modern soci- eties is associated with particular challenges mostly related to it being involved in other social processes, but that it also offers exceptional op- portunities for the promotion of knowledge not being fully exploited today. This raises complex questions surrounding the role of science and experts in society and the challenges of post-factual societies.
The second monograph is entitled Qualitative research in theory and practice (Dr. Blaž Mesec). Here is the abstract:
Blaž Mesec’s second book on qualitative research is based on: comments he made on students’ seminar papers and additional elaborations and summaries; notes for lectures given at various faculties since he has retired; and what he wrote on his blog »Kvalitativno« chiefly intended for students as extracurricular material. The key purpose of all of the mentioned writing was didactic: with numerous examples, Mesec tried to show how to analyse verbal material in order to derive concepts and conceptual categories from it as components of ‘contextual’ or ‘grounded tentative’ theory; namely, generalisations that are useful for orientation while operating in a concrete environment and for further verification as hypotheses that should lead to further generalisations. In the theoretical chapters, Mesec discusses the epistemological sources of qualitative analysis – symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and hermeneutics, before providing an overview of methodological approaches such as case study, thematic analysis, grounded theory, narrative analysis and biography. Qualitative research and qualitative data generation methods are outlined next, followed by a description of coding techniques (techniques for abstracting the essential meaning of statements). Examples of analytical procedures and several tentative theories are then presented. The book concludes with an overview of qualitative research conducted by the Institute for Development and Strategic Analysis in Ljubljana in the almost 20 years of its existence.
The presentation was attended by colleagues from the IRSA Institute and by a colleague from the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Ljubljana. After the presentations, the participants discussed the advantages and disadvantages of meritocracy, the concept of the knowledge society, the covid-19 epidemic in Slovenia, the academic sphere in Slovenia and elsewhere, qualitative methodology, the concept of experimental theory, etc. Many ideas and opinions were exchanged regarding the mentioned topics.