Why is there “Squid Game ” series a critique of meritocracy?

The “Squid Game” series is Netflix’s latest work, which has set many records in attracting the audience and there are comments about its violent scenes.

Four hundred and 56 participants will take part in a series of deadly competitions. The prize is a race of billions of vans that hangs from the roof of a dormitory in a giant piggy bank. The people who participate in this game are poor and indebted, and some of them are addicted to gambling, and others are involved in gang violence or on the verge of expulsion. This frustration has made them risk their lives to earn money.

Undoubtedly, the ” Squid Game ” is a mockery of material inequality in South Korea. The problem has escalated to the point where candidates for the 2022 presidential election have spoken out against extremist policies, including rising global incomes and a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s legal system.

Although the goal of the social critique of the ” Squid Game ” series is clearly inequality, its irony will be effective when it targets the laws that support and justify this inequality. Perhaps the ” Squid Game ” is at best a critique of meritocracy.

The promise of meritocracy

Sociologists, economists, and philosophers have done much study on the role that meritocracy plays in legitimizing the current level of inequality. We are fed up with the idea that a meritorious society will be one where our material well-being is not determined by social class, race, or gender, but by a combination of our ability and effort. Meritists believe in equal social competition, equal playgrounds, and rewards for talented and hard-working people in order to climb the social ladder.

But in a competitive society, not everyone can win. The dark side of meritocracy is that it justifies inequality based on people being better in their positions, and those who are worse deserving of living in that position. When people are convinced that their society is truly based on meritocracy, then it is difficult to resist political inequalities.

The political promise of meritocracy peaked in the 1980s and 1990s and has waned since the financial crisis of 2008. Nevertheless, meritocracy continues to influence contemporary politics; For example, last year Kamala Harris said in the election campaign that everyone can be equal and compete equally. Some data show that a large part of the world’s population believes that they live in a meritocracy.

The problem with previous promises is that they are either wrong (because we never experience meritocracy exactly) or absurd because meritocracy does not do exactly what we expect it to do. In ” Squid Game ” both of these dissatisfactions are shown.

Injustice resulting from false meritocracy

At the heart of the competition in the series is a moral sign that an anonymous person gives participants a chance to get out of the game. “These people are suffering from inequality and discrimination in the world, and we are giving them a chance to fight and win on equal terms.”

Not surprisingly, the reality of competition in this series is far from ideal meritocracy. The hope of having an opportunity equal to the same social factors that corrupt the out-of-game community is undermined. Sects are formed, women are excluded and old players are abandoned.

The only foreign player in the film, Ali Abdul, is a person who is despised, betrayed and exploited. In the first game, he holds the hero of the game, Seung Gye-hoon, and in a stunning visual metaphor, he refers to the dependence of developed countries on cheap foreign labor. Not everyone has a chance to win.

The violence of true meritocracy

But is the inequality in this series that the competition is unfair? Would this savagery have disappeared if all the participants had competed in an equal space? “Squid Game” can be quite meritocratic and at the same time completely misleading. It is a competition in which a small number of players make a fortune, and a slight difference in the performance of individuals makes the difference between success and failure, and this is the difference between life and death.
Compare this story to the bipolar market of countries like the United States, where middle-income jobs replace a small number of high-paying jobs for winners and low-paying jobs remain for those who remain. In fact, even societies like the United States that have embraced true meritocracy have little chance of winning, while losing tens of millions of people.

“Squid Game” is also a competition in which the poorest people in society are forced to enter the game. Although the rules of the game allow players to cancel at any time (they even used voting to continue the game), the misery that awaits them outside the game leaves them with no choice.

The winner gets everything and the losers die and the participants have no choice but to play. Absolute meritocracy “Squid Game” is a cartoon version of the inequalities that arise in competitive societies. But it exaggerates the dangers of true and false meritocracy that have trapped millions today.

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