When, in a competitive sphere, people are selected on the basis of qualifications only, their chances of acquiring positions of advantage may seem to depend entirely upon their abilities, not discriminatory bias. However, if reaction qualifications - i.e. characteristics which contribute to a person's effectiveness by causing a favourable reaction in customers, co-workers etc. (for short: recipients) - are involved, this assumption is false. Building on work by Wertheimer, Mason, and Miller, this paper proposes an account of the reaction qualifications that count, from the point of view of merit. Specifically, it preserves symmetry between negative evaluations of antimeritocratic bases of selection and negative evaluations of qualifications rooted in comparable antimeritocratic reactions. So if employers should not select among applicants on the basis of their (the employers') racial preferences, recipients should not respond to the applicant actually hired on the basis of their (the recipients') racial preferences. My account decomposes the meritocratic ideal into four separate norms, one of which applies to recipients rather than to selectors. Finally, it defends the view that reaction qualifications based on antimeritocratic reactions, while not unproblematic, are not entirely irrelevant from the point of view of merit. Notably, selectors need not discount them when no one - including the targets of the objectionable preferences - is unfairly disadvantaged. Because not all problematic reaction-qualifications are entirely irrelevant from the point of view of merit, the view expounded here implies that the ideal of meritocracy and the norm of non-discrimination are less closely tied than theorists like Andrew Mason and David Miller believe.
Social Theory and Practice, 2009, Vol 35, Issue 3, p. 413-439