Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

This book is about tensions between equality and excellence that have arisen in Western culture since the eighteenth century. Meritocracy—the idea that careers are open to talent, that the best man wins the game, that the race is to the swift—is one of the most important modern ideas invoked to solve these tensions. It does so in principle, but ...

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Introduction: The Indispensable Fictions of Equality and Excellence

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pp. 1-22

This book explores a tension between two values, equality and excellence. Does a fundamental conflict exist between those values? Perhaps the more equal we become, the more we dumb down our hopes of real excellence. Or is it the other way round? Someone can be excellent only in comparison ...

Part One

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pp. 23-24

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One - Kids and K

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pp. 25-50

Most citizens of modern liberal democracies endorse equality of opportunity as a fundamental political value. Many people don’t think that it is enough—for them, equality demands more than opportunities—and others aren’t quite sure what exactly equality means or requires, and for ...

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Two - Dueling for Equality: The Master’s Tools Will Take Down the Master’s House

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pp. 51-76

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, you can’t always wait till the cows come home: Whatever hopes for the future educational reforms carried, they involved a definite delay. Also, the reformers focused on the first part of the autonomy/dignity equation. The question of a person’s ...

Part Two

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pp. 77-78

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Three - Mens Sana, the Playing Fields of Eton, and Other Clich

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pp. 79-105

In chapter 1, I mentioned Immanuel Kant’s injunction that bodily cultivation—“gymnastics in the strict sense”—is a moral duty. There are good reasons not to be surprised about this. A central piece of Kant’s moral, social, and political philosophy holds that humans are unavoidably ...

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Four - Physical Culture for the Masses

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pp. 106-128

This chapter takes us into the twentieth century, but it begins in the world of the previous one. The puzzle here is why newly emerging working-class political organizations seemed so interested in sports. The answer is that they saw sports as thoroughly political and some- thing they might be able to use for their political goals. Mass sports and mass politics developed roughly simultaneously ...

Part Three

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pp. 129-130

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Five - Being a Woman and Other Disabilities

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pp. 131-152

In figure 3, a photo from a University of Michigan basketball game in around 1910, you don’t see any spectators. Perhaps it’s no surprise: even today, a good many intramural college games take place with no spectators. In fact, even women’s varsity sports tend to get very few ...

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Six - The Political Theory of Doping

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pp. 153-184

Doping scandals are something you might encounter on tabloid covers in the grocery store checkout line: they are melodramatic, delightfully sordid stories about the moral foibles of people whom society worships a bit too much for its own good. There is the melodrama about sprinters Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones, the former royal...

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Conclusion: “An Old Question Raised Again: Is the Human Race Constantly Progressing?”

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pp. 185-194

This book explores the political tension between equality and excellence in modernity.1 Its conclusions are necessarily contingent. Despite the historical survey, the book is animated by an interest in con-temporary controversies over equality and excellence—by ongoing debates about affirmative action, for example, and more broadly by ...

Notes

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pp. 195-210

References

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pp. 211-226

Index

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pp. 227-233