The Tyranny of Merit

RSA Minimates

The Tyranny of Merit

About the speaker

Professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard University, Michael Sandel has dedicated his life to teaching and speaking about justice, ethics, democracy and markets. His books include Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics and Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Professor Sandel has delivered the BBC’s Reith Lecture and led debates across the world, including at the Palace of Westminster. Add to this his free Harvard University course ‘Justice’ and series for media outlets such as the BBC and NHK, and Professor Sandel’s commitment to an open public discourse on politics is clear.

About our partner

The RSA have been enriching society and creating the space for enlightened thinking since 1754. Their Minimate series brings this important mission straight into the 21st century with a series of powerful talks delivered succinctly for today’s busy and rushed world.

The challenge

Our challenge with this film was to find a storytelling device that was capable of presenting the layers of detail and information in Professor Sandel’s talk and allowed us to add a high level of visual thinking. It was important for us to create a film that was as dynamic as the talk it was presenting and able to flow seamlessly into different elements. Important visual language had to be included, such as the final reveal. It was essential this reveal added a new dimension to the film, combining the separate visuals together in a previously unseen way. While doing this, the film had to also be relevant, relatable and accessible.

The film

Professor Sandel explores the tyranny of merit. He unpacks the reality and consequences of a meritocracy, and what needs to happen next.

This was a complex subject with many facets. We used a Snakes and Ladders board to create a versatile set piece that mapped this wealth of information. An important issue facing our society today, the film used contemporary references to root itself in our everyday reality. These included political figures, TV shows and institutions. To bring Professor Sandel’s talk to the screen we used a range of metaphors, explaining the content and making it memorable. These included a two-faced double edged sword to indicate the nature of meritocracies and ancient goddesses weaving universal threads to represent a shared fate. These factors combined to create a whiteboard animation which represented this information rich topic in a way that not only presented the subject, but was engaging for viewers, memorable and shareable.

The context

Michael Sandel delivered his talk ‘A New Politics of Hope’ to the RSA on the 10th December 2018, watch the full talk here.

The scrapbook