Assessments of praise and blame tend to reflect existing hierarchies of power and status, thereby reifying them. This is because praise and blame have as much to do with the person judging as the person being judged. If everyone in a meritocracy wants to get ahead, assessments of praise and blame will be influenced by whatever helps people to get ahead – namely heaping praise on the powerful and respected, and castigating those without power and status. This is obviously true with meritocracies that most people explicitly reject, such as white supremacy and patriarchy – hierarchies drawn along racial and gender lines. These systems have persisted despite the baseless moral judgments on which they are grounded, because those living within the system are incentivised to see such judgments as legitimate. Meritocracies in general convince those within the system to echo the moral assessments on which they are based as objective and justified, when in fact they are shaped not by objective criteria but by the qualities of the powerful. Praise and blame are ideological blinders that uphold the legitimacy of the meritocratic hierarchy.

Let us now stop praising famous men (and women) | Aeon