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Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration (such as business administration) wherein appointments are made and responsibilities assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence and education,[1] determined through evaluations or examinations.

Although meritocracy as a term is a recent invention, the concept originates from the works of Han Feizi and Confucius, along with other Legalist and Confucian philosophers. The first meritocracy was implemented in the 2nd century BC, by the Han Dynasty, which introduced the world's first civil service exams evaluating the "merit" of officials.[2]

Meritocracy itself is not a form of government, but rather an ideology. Meritocracy itself is frequently confused as being a type of government, rather than correctly as a methodology or factor used in or for, the appointment of individuals to government. Individuals appointed to a meritocracy are judged based upon certain merits which could range from intelligence to morality to general aptitude to specific knowledge. A criticism of this methodology is that [3] "merit" itself is a highly subjective, vague term potentially lacking clarity allowing for potential misuse. The use of objective and valid measures circumvents this problem.

Meritocracy is its wider sense can be any general act of judgment upon the basis of people's various demonstrated merits; such acts are frequently described in sociology and psychology. Thus the merits may extend beyond intelligence and education to any mental or physical talent or to work ethic. In rhetoric, the demonstration of one's merit regarding mastery of a particular subject is an essential task most directly related to the Aristotelian term Ethos. The equivalent Aristotelian conception of meritocracy is based upon aristocratic or oligarchical structures rather than in the context of the modern nation state.[4][5]


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