Upward Mobility and What ‘Strivers’ Get Right

Analysis 81 (2):351-359 (2021)
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Abstract

Jennifer Morton’s Moving Up without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility is a wonderful book.1 1 In the acknowledgements, Morton says that in order to write it, she needed to ‘unlearn’ her training to write like a philosopher. I’ve had some occasion to try to unlearn that training myself. Having found it quite difficult, I am in awe of Morton’s remarkable accomplishment. She is offering deep philosophical insights into a matter of urgent social concern, and she’s making those insights broadly legible to people who are not philosophers. The book is philosophically rich, but not for the sake of being philosophically rich. Like Morton, I think philosophy has a lot to offer to college leaders and, indeed, to leaders of all social institution that influence the trajectories of people’s lives. But making those contributions on behalf of our discipline requires us to exercise discernment and care not just in making distinctions and unpacking assumptions; it requires discernment and care too in judging which of those distinctions and assumptions really need probing. With this book, Morton offers not only a penetrating philosophical treatment of some under-explored costs involved in social mobility. She also offers a model for how to bring the disciplinary tools of philosophy to bear in ways that empower a broad audience to understand and to act on the conclusions she defends.

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Gina Schouten
Harvard University

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