A new book sets out the dangers of the "winner takes all" societyby Bim Afolami / April 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Are the most successful people in society the best, or just the luckiest? How important is a decent start in life? How much talent is under-utilised because some individuals did not get the lucky break at the crucial time? In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses his concept of “eudaimonia,” probably best translated as “human flourishing,” as what constitutes the highest good for human beings. It is useful in framing a discussion of what constitutes professional success—each of us performing to as high a standard, at as high a level as our skills and efforts can muster. How much is our journey towards that ideal stymied by luck beyond our control?
Robert H Frank’s new book, Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (Princeton University Press) attempts to answer this central question—are those who attain the Olympian heights of professional success cleverer, harder working, and with better skills than the rest of us? Frank’s answer is no and he makes three supporting arguments. First, the influence of chance events and environmental factors has a huge effect on people’s lives, irrespective of their…