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Class, merit and opportunity

All the main parties support the principle of an open and classless society. Anthony Dworkin considers their different means to that end and examines the flaws in the meritocratic vision

By Anthony Dworkin   March 1997

If the coming British election is the first since the official end of class politics, it is no surprise that all main parties appear to support the same general principle of social justice. Conservatives talk of creating opportunity for all; Labour now promotes equality of opportunity, often explicitly contrasted with the party’s previous enthusiasm for equality of outcome. Paddy Ashdown says the welfare state must aim at widening opportunities rather than redistributing wealth. Suddenly, in Britain as in Bill Clinton’s US, opportunity is everywhere-enshrined along with responsibility and community in the Holy Trinity of political discourse.

Opportunity is one of…

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