Reading response: Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon

“Rhetoric and Competition” by Linda Hutcheon is a journal article published on the Common Knowledge Volume 9, Issue 1, Winter 2003. Linda Hutcheon is a literary critic now a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. (More about her here)

Hutcheon’s Article

In her journal article, Hutcheon informs her readers about her opinion of how working together and collaborating is a much more favourable thing to do than competing with each other, where she focuses on competition apparent in an academic community. She argues how in the current environment, people are seeing “a colleague as an “enemy” to be scorned and condemned.” She also argues how due to us “falling into a business model of competition in our professional and intellectual lives”, a zero-sum game may exist where the opposition must be destroyed. This leads her to come up with questions such as “if someone “wins,” does that necessarily mean that others have to lose?”

Comparison with other works

Compared to other works we have read so far, Hutcheon’s article is very similar to Bateson’s article, “The Myths of Independence and Competition.” In both articles both Hutcheon and Bateson uses first-person to address their opinion and thoughts on how they believe interdependence and collaboration is better than competing against each other. Hutcheon, however, focuses more on competition in the academic community whereas Bateson focuses on how we should learn to interdepend on each other rather than compete for the betterment of society. Bateson further gives us examples such as Lynn Margolis’ theory and the phrase “Survival of the fittest” to explain that competition is not natural and looking from a biological perspective, we were able to exist because there was interdependency.

Werron’s research article, “Why do we believe in competition? A historical-sociological view of competition as an institutionalized modern imaginary” is very different from the other two articles as the purpose is different compared to the other two articles. Werron focused on history and other scholar’s works to develop a concept of competition whereas the other two were stating their opinion on how competition is bad for the society.

Though all three articles talked about competition, Hutcheon and Bateson have focused on what their opinion was on competition apparent in today’s society, whereas, Werron stayed neutral and took no side to focus on conceptualizing the idea of competition.

It is important to note that I think that the definition of “competition” for all three of them was different as Hutcheon was a literary critic, Bateson was an anthropologist, and Werron was a sociologist. I think Hutcheon saw competition as a motivation for people to “drop” or “defeat” other people so they could rise up where Hutcheon saw this apparent in academic communities. Though their articles were similar, I believe Bateson saw competition as something that hinders society as she believes that there could have been many things we could have accomplished as a society if we have had been interdependent than competitive. Werron based his definition of competition by Georg Simmel where competition is competition for the favour of the audience where the competitors do not interfere with each other directly.

My Opinions

Both Hutcheon and Werron have discussed the zero-sum game in their papers. Referencing to another post,  I agree with the idea of the author how the author believes “that competition should be more of a win-win thing but sometimes it’s hard,” due to the fact that “people tend to believe what they have lost.” To build on to this idea I think the prisoner’s dilemma would be a great example. Though it is assumed in the prisoner’s dilemma that the two prisoners cannot communicate with each other if they did, they will both be better off than pursuing their own self-interest and being worse-off.

In my opinion, I think competition is needed in some areas and in some other areas collaboration may be the better approach. For example in sports, competition drives athletes to do better and in a way that itself is both competition and co-operation as two athletes compete with each other but then thus motivate each other to become better. However, in other areas such as Scientific discoveries, I believe rather than competing with other scholars and institutes who can discover something new first, collaborating and researching together should allow for the discovery to happen more soon.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s