Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Is social mobility good?

Yes, social mobility is good, its fallen a lot and we should be doing something to improve it but we should reward that which contributes to moral and not just material worth. In this instance I agree with, no, no, not Nick but...the third approach to justice, that of virtue ethics, associated with Aristotle. The virtue ethicist would want to ask whether a socially mobile world rewards certain kinds of ability more than others. For example, someone with skills in banking or sales can do pretty well in a market society such as ours. But someone with skills as an artist or a mother may well find it hard to make ends meet.

Further, the virtue ethicist asks, does a socially mobile world actually undermine certain roles that are great goods - such as the arts or being a mother?

These things contribute to the common good. They are part of any just, flourishing society. And yet, social mobility may sideline them by not appreciating them.

This is not to say that a virtue ethics approach is against mobility.

What it would suggest, though, is that a good society needs to have ways of rewarding individuals that contribute things of moral, not just material, worth.

That might be a society which funds the arts, encourages the humanities as well as sciences, and doesn't forget that what goes on in the home matters at least as much as what goes on in the marketplace.

BBC News - Is social mobility good?

Broadcaster Andrew Neil says the meritocracy - in politics at least - is grinding to a halt. Today's MPs increasingly come from privileged stock. His documentary Posh and Posher is on BBC Two, 26 Jan at 2100 GMT

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