May 1, 2020
REVERBERATIONS OF INEQUALITY Interviewer: MATTHEW BERKMAN. Even in the United Kingdom, with its longstanding reputation for rigid class distinctions, the common presumption in the twenty-first century is that people progress in their careers according to talent and hard work. In his interviews with members of elite occupations, however, SAM FRIEDMAN discovered that getting ahead in these careers often has much to do with the advantages of a privileged class origin. These advantages range from the “bank of mum and dad,” enabling greater career risks (and rewards), to the less tangible behavioral markers of accent and manners that make it easier to fit into elite workplace cultures or find favor with well-placed mentors. In his discussion with political scientist Matthew Berkman, Friedman weighs whether efforts should be directed to achieving equality of opportunity or, rather, to reducing the outsized rewards of success. He argues that either way, the first step is to puncture the myth of meritocracy. Note: This interview was recorded way back in September 2019, when Friedman presented his work at the Mitchell Center’s “Reverberations of Inequality” Conference – long before the current coronavirus crisis was on the horizon.