… is from page 11 of Adrian Wooldridge’s 2021 book, The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World (original emphasis):
[M]eritocracy is a revolutionary idea, the intellectual dynamite which has blown up old worlds – and created the materials for the construction of new ones. For millennia, most societies have been organized according to the very opposite principles to meritocracy. People inherited their positions in fixed social orders. The world was ruled by royal dynasties. Plum jobs were bought and sold like furniture. Nepotism was a way of life. Upward mobility was discouraged and sometimes outlawed.