Reading Response – Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon #PO4

The 2003 article by Linda Hutcheon discusses the presence of competition in the academic world.  The author encourages a new form of thinking and team work.  She suggests new ways to turn the academic world into a more inclusive environment.  She seeks to stop the “wolfish belittling” seen in academics today and create an environment where academics and society as a whole can support each other.

Although not all three of the texts are structured in the same way and take different forms, the texts share similar ideas and arguments.  Bateson’s speech on the myths of independence and competition, brings forward arguments suggesting how society can work together, and how as a whole society can work towards interdependence.  Werron’s research article gives a history to competition discussing how it has evolved and worked its way into economic and non-economic fields.  It also breaks down how it works on a social level, as well as inside the academic world.

Bateson’s speech is delivered differently than the other two texts when looking at the form.  It is clearly structured in the form of a speech and makes it clear that it was delivered in front of an audience.  While the other two are able to expand more on details presented inside both of the texts.  The speech is straight forward, concise and to the point.  The different forms allow the authors to show their specific styles and express their ideas in the ways they feel work best.

The texts although all discussing the concept of competition define and refer to it in different ways.  While it may be easy to define competitions for one’s basic understanding there are several ways competition can be interpreted and analyzed as seen in the texts.  Hutcheon looked at competition threw a narrow lens.  Looking at competition in the academic world.  She discusses how academics put their own works and interests ahead of others.  In her example of this she discusses a specific conference in which an individual in putting down another’s work in order put theirs forward and present it as “better” or more “relevant”, promoting their own self-interest.  A main focus in Bateson’s speech was independence and interdependence.  She urges society to work together rather than separately.  One example she uses to support her argument is one originally presented by Gregory Bateson and his description of the hand.  The hand is not four fingers working separately but four fingers working together.  That is how Bateson believes society should operate.  Werron looked at competition the most broadly out of the three.  Discussing how competition is for the enjoyment of an audience or those watching.  Rather than focusing on one specific aspect of competition or area affected by it he decides to give a history of competition as a whole and the role it has played and plays currently in our society.

I understand the interest shown by Bateson in a more interdependent world and wanting society to work together.  I also understand why Hutcheon believes there should be less or no competition in the academic world.  Nonetheless I am an individual who believes in competition and I believe it plays a crucial role in our society.  It would be great if as a whole we could all work together but at some level competition will always be present and always be needed.  Without it the world would there would be no progress and the world would come to a standstill.  There would be no motivation to improve.  Why change something when there is no fear of someone doing it better?


1 Comment

  1. While I don’t fully agree with Bateson either, I don’t think it’s accurate to suggest that without competition, nobody would have any motivation to improve. Actually, I suppose this is all contingent upon what aspects of society we’re discussing competition in. For example, I think competition is important regarding business and producers, at least in theory. But perhaps less so in scholarship for example, or university rankings. Given enough passion and motivation, I believe people can find plenty of reason to improve themselves without the drive of competition. Progression for progress’ sake as opposed to for material gains or recognition.

    Liked by 1 person

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