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Young, Michael

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Author.

(1915-2002) UK sociologist and author whose Family and Kinship in East London (1957), with Peter Willmott (1923-2000), had a seminal effect on community-planning priorities. His sf work, The Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033: An Essay on Education and Equality (1958), not only gave the word "meritocracy" to the language but extensively defined it: a meritocracy is an elite whose members are recruited on the basis of merit (largely Intelligence) in a competitive educational system; it is also, as Young – who meant the term Satirically – sardonically emphasizes, a form of government. The book itself takes the form of a report written in 2033 CE by an historical sociologist (its only character in any ordinary sense); and some libraries have catalogued it as nonfiction. Though the narrator supports the system he describes, it is quite clear that Young himself does not; the book is a subtle and interesting Dystopia based on Eugenics and condescending social controls over women (see Women in SF) and the masses, ie the less intelligent, who are sequestrated from the meritorious by the age of three; traditional forms of community bonding, as in so many Utopias, are ruthlessly discarded. The ending, in which the narrator is reported as having been killed in a populist revolt of 2034, is ironic and mutedly apocalyptic. Young was granted a life peerage in 1978. [PN/JC]

see also: Sociology.

Michael Dunlop Young, Baron Young of Dartington

born Hale, Cheshire: 9 August 1915

died London: 14 January 2002

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