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America as a Perceived Meritocracy

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America as a Perceived Meritocracy:
Structure, Stratification, and Life Chances at a Glance

America as a Perceived Meritocracy
America, like most other countries in the world, has a system of social stratification in place, which is the division of society into groups arranged in a social hierarchy. The most formal form of stratification is that based on wealth. Because of this and other devices of stratification, there is an unequal distribution of wealth and power among the members of society, known as social inequality (Ferris & Stein, 211). Though this social inequality is very real and Americans have to face it every day, this bitter reality seems less unpleasant as the idea of the American Dream is brought up. The idea of the American Dream is something which the majority of Americans clings to and is able to seek hope within. It is an idea that says as long as one works hard enough and has enough passion, work ethic, and gusto that they, too, can achieve a higher status in society than the current one in which they reside. Americans often bring up a spectacular example of this so-called dream, Oprah Winfrey, highlighting the fact that she went from immense poverty to wealth, and if she can do it, then so can anybody else. However, what these hopeful, blindsided American fail to realize is that Oprah Winfrey is the exception, not the rule. To assume that the American Dream is within the grasp of each American pursuing it would mean that America runs as a meritocracy. A meritocracy is a system in which rewards are distributed based on merit (Ferris & Stein, 237). Although America has an open-class system, meaning that an individual has opportunity to move from one class to another (Ferris & Stein, 229), it is highly unlikely that a person will ascend (or descend) a great amount within the economic class structure. However, this social…...

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