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As of September 2022, I will be a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Swedish Research council, working on a project titled “What do we deserve in a meritocracy?” (2022-2025). During these years I will split my time between Gothenburg and Tilburg University (TiLPS). The purpose of the project is to investigate the tenability of meritocracy – which holds that jobs and economic benefits should be distributed according to desert. Critics view the increasing levels of income inequality and elitism as the result of meritocratic policies. Proponents of meritocracy blame market imperfections and state interventions for preventing meritocratic policies from enabling a just society.

The central issue for meritocratic thinking is that it is seldom obvious what it means to deserve something. In order to make sense of its potential, this project will focus on solving what I call the practical problems of desert. First, meritocrats need to explain how one can be rightfully deserving of, say, a higher income than others even though most of our innate talents are the result of luck. Second, there needs to be a clear methodology for comparing the efforts and contributions of different workers, both between workers employed by the same company and workers who work in different sectors. Lastly, the meritocrat needs to provide a so-called “anchor” for desert claims. This means that there needs to be a way of translating someone’s deservingness into economic rewards, such as answering what a hard day’s work is worth in monetary terms.

My doctoral project was part of the Financial Ethics Research Group and focused mainly on the concept of desert and just pay theories. I defended my thesis "Giving Executives Their Due: Just Pay, Desert, and Equality" in December 2021. The thesis is available here.


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