Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/184342
Title: FROM EACH HIS BEST, TO EACH HIS WORTH: A HISTORY OF THE IDEAS IN AND AROUND MERITOCRACY IN SINGAPORE, 1954-1974
Authors: ANG ZHEN YE
Keywords: Meritocracy
Socialism
Asian Values
History of Ideas in Singapore
Issue Date: 6-Apr-2020
Citation: ANG ZHEN YE (2020-04-06). FROM EACH HIS BEST, TO EACH HIS WORTH: A HISTORY OF THE IDEAS IN AND AROUND MERITOCRACY IN SINGAPORE, 1954-1974. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The scholarly endeavour to study Singapore’s brand of meritocracy is not new. Numerous educationists, sociologists, political theorists and scientists have examined the manifestations, functions, and effects of the ideas of meritocracy in Singapore. None, however, provided an account of where these ideas came from, how and why Singapore’s leaders and society embraced a particular set of ideas termed as “meritocracy.” In other words, missing from the scholarship is a historical treatment of the subject. This thesis examines how and why these ideas of “meritocracy” came to hold meaning and significance in Singapore. I argue that the ideas in Singapore’s meritocracy were the product of a dynamic interplay, contestations and alliances of the ideas around it. Prior to independence in 1965, the People’s Action Party (PAP) faced a conundrum: it was politically committed to socialism, but Singapore’s economy depended on capitalism. Wrestling with these socialist-capitalist tensions, key PAP leaders – S. Rajaratnam, Goh Keng Swee, and Lee Kuan Yew – developed and propagated ideas of a merit-based society as a way out of this conundrum. Once Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, the PAP leaders were determined to create a different society from the race-differentiated Malaysian polity. Taken up within the larger circuit of culture and society, the PAP’s ideas of meritocracy resonated with the people. But Singaporeans also acknowledged that meritocracy unfettered was far from the ideal Party leaders touted it to be. By 1974, there emerged an ostensible consensus about the role and place of meritocracy in Singapore: Meritocracy was essential for Singapore’s success, but its excess should be tempered vis-à-vis an alliance with Asian values.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/184342
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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