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However, this scope restriction is open to challenge.The idea of equality of opportunity tends also to be limited in scope along another dimension.
Different conceptions of equality of opportunity construe this idea of competing on equal terms variously.
Formal equality of opportunity requires that positions and posts that confer superior advantages should be open to all applicants.
Social mobility may be possible in a caste society, but the process whereby one is admitted to a different level of the hierarchy is open only to some individuals depending on their initial ascriptive social status.
In contrast, when equality of opportunity prevails, the assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is determined by some form of competitive process, and all members of society are eligible to compete on equal terms.
A market economy conforms to formal equality of opportunity only if jobs offered by business firms are publicized in advance, so that anyone who might want to apply has a reasonable opportunity to do so.
In this setting formal equality of opportunity also requires that applications from anyone are accepted, applications are judged on their merits, and the most qualified according to criteria that are relevant to job performance are offered positions.
The background assumption is that a society contains a hierarchy of more and less desirable, superior and inferior positions. In a caste society, the assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is fixed by birth.
The child acquires the social status of his or her parents at least if their union is socially sanctioned.
Formal equality of opportunity might obtain in a variety of social settings.
As defined here, this ideal does not presuppose that the production and distribution of goods and services are organized through a market economy with private ownership.