Phillip Brown
Cardiff University
Rise of Mass Higher Education/Wealth of
Talent
But
 Stagnant/Declining Social Mobility;


Widening Inequalities within Occupational
Groups (winner-takes-all markets);

Some Evidence (US/Japan; US Occupations)
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
low
middle
1998
2005
high
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
low
middle
1998
2005
high
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
low
middle
1998
2005
high



Shift in understanding of ‘knowledge’ economy within
business – McKinsey Consulting, etc.
‘It’s more important to get great talent, since the differential
value created by the most talented knowledge workers is
enormous’ (Ed Michaels, et al. McKinsey Consultants, 2001).
‘The post-industrial society, in its initial logic is a
meritocracy. Differential status and differential income are
based on technical skills and higher education.’ (Daniel Bell,
The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, 1973).

Employability in a Global Economy;

A Meritocracy of Talent?;


Conceptual Starting Point: Positional Conflict
Theory;
An Agenda for Research

Methodological Nationalism

Duality of Employability –
Absolute (Skills Upgrading; Hard/Soft Currencies,
etc.)
Relative (How One Stands in Relation to
Others.

The ‘Relative’ is Now Global;

It’s Now a Competition Based on Quality and Price
(Global Auction).

TNCs: Widening Access versus Widening
World;

Global League Tables ‘Recruit the Best of the
Best’;

Reinforced by Reputational Capital of
Universities;

People as Product within Knowledge
Organisations.

? Ascription  Meritocracy

Ideology of Meritocracy  Ideology of
Performocracy (both based on ‘achievement’);

Neo-Liberalism and the Market for Talent;

Markets Reward ‘Success’ Not Fairness;




Sociological Critique of Positional Consensus
(Baby/Bath Water!)
Positional Conflict: Exclusionary Tactics of
Elites;
Avoid ‘Content Free’ Reproduction;
Restructuring of (Re)Production of Middle
Classes in Comparative Perspective


What does the ‘war for talent’ tell us about
the (re)production of class and gender
relations in education and employment?
What does it tell us about positional
competition and the middle classes from a
comparative perspective?





To undertake a comparative study of the social
construction of ‘talent’;
To investigate the relationship between ‘talent’ and
‘meritocracy’ as understood by university students
and leading employers;
To assess whether ‘talent’ is understood, nurtured
and rewarded differently in Britain and France;
To examine the relationship between education
and the recruitment of elites in different national
contexts;
To contribute to the development of new concepts
and theoretical insights required to account for the
changing relationship between education, jobs and
rewards in cross-national perspective.

Is there evidence of an International Convergence around the
War for Talent?

Are those defined as ‘talented’ treated differently in terms of
special schooling, career tracks, etc.?

How do the proportions of those deemed to be ‘talented’ vary
in different contexts?

Is what you need to know to be talented the same in different
countries?

Is talent defined and rewarded differently in various
countries?

Do women need to be more ‘talented’ than men in Britain or
France to have their talents recognised?



Interviews with 10 leading employers (5 from each
country) matched by sector (legal profession, civil
service or investment banking).
Interviews with 40 final year undergrads (20 from
each country) from elite universities aiming for
these careers.
Plus, background research on the social structure
of competition in Britain and France.