Merit system

From Encyklopedia Administracji Publicznej

MERIT SYSTEM – a system in which personnel decisions in public administration (employment, promotion, business transfer, etc.) are made on the basis of substantive criteria – merit (also called meritocracy understood as the power of talented people). It is the opposite of the system of patronage or spoils, in which non-merit factors (e.g. political) play a decisive role in the personnel policy. In the sociological sense, merit is a criterion for the selection of official elites. Substantiality is an important feature of the concept of → Weber’s rational administration. Institutionally, the functioning of m.s. is provided by the → civil service. Specific solutions for this purpose are, for example, state, central competitions for official posts (France), specific promotion systems (Germany), employee evaluations (the EU civil service), talent management (Great Britain). The situation in which professional officials manifest their superiority towards politicians or citizens (arrogance resulting from expert knowledge) is a representation of the dysfunction of the m.s. The m.s. alone stands in some contradiction with the concept of a representative bureaucracy, that is one whose composition reflects the social structure of a given state. Referring to the history of political thought, meritocracy is part of the concept of the Platonic state. Plato was a supporter of the rule of the sages-philosophers. In modern times, the idea of m.s. was included in the French Declaration of Human and Citizens’ Rights in 1789. According to its Article VI, the only criterion for access to public positions were the “virtues and talents” of citizens. [Ł. Świetlikowski]

Literature: J. Itrich-Drabarek, Uwarunkowania, standardy i kierunki zmian funkcjonowania służby cywilnej w Polsce na tle europejskim [Conditions, standards and directions of changes in the functioning of the civil service in Poland against the European background], Warszawa 2010 ■ B.G. Peters, Administracja publiczna w systemie politycznym [Public administration in the political system], Warszawa 1999.