Reading Response: Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon #P03

#rhetoric #competition #Bateson #Hutcheon #cooperation
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In this paper, Hutcheon argues that the current state of the academic community is becoming “wolfish”, where the participants in the creation of knowledge work primarily to attack and challenge their peers’ ideas to demolish and to replace with their own ideas instead, rather than viewing their work as an “additive” process where peers, as opposed to competing, cooperate to produce better knowledge. This piece is also a criticism of the current state of the academic fields and an analysis of its cause. Hutcheon discusses the etymology of the Greek word “agon” to explore how the word has changed its meaning over time and also the feminist argument regarding the causes as to why and how the intellectuals today have become to favor competition so much over cooperation, attributing it to the historical male domination of the field until recently (which Hutcheon disagrees with).

The structure has more similarities than differences with the Bateson’s speech transcript. Both the papers involve a sharing of a personal anecdote, criticism of the focus on competition in today’s world, and many citations and references to other scholars to reinforce the argument. Regarding the content, both Hutcheon and Bateson argues that there is too much focus on competition and that there should rather be more cooperation. However, the reasons for this claim differ between the two. Bateson argues that human should come together as a species to cooperate to combat the climate changes caused by ourselves, while Hutcheon urges the today’s intellectuals to engage in more constructive discourses with their peers to create better knowledge.

The competition that Bateson talked about in her speech and Hutcheon criticized in her paper is however different. Bateson mainly brought up the word competition in her speech to emphasize the lack of the notion of cooperation in our society, where competition is perceived as a natural phenomenon and an inherent concept that we are born with. However, the competition that Hutcheon criticizes is more specific. She refers to the practices among the today’s academic elites where they constantly look for chances to attack their peers’ works. Hence some dissimilarities are seen between the definition of competition that these scholars discuss.


In response to this Hutcheon’s writing, warnersam took the 2016 US presidential election to exemplify the type of competition discussed in her paper happening in real life, which I found particularly intriguing because during my reading it had never occurred to me to think about a real-life scenario where I might find the type of “competition” that Hutcheon defines applicable. However, I disagree with warnersam’s example because presidential elections are a zero-sum game, and I do not see a scenario where Trump and Hilary, the two main candidates could have cooperated in their campaigns. In my personal opinion, politics and academics are two totally different fields and Hutcheon’s argument could not be applied to criticise competition in politics, especially for an election. Werron argued that democracy as a political form in itself is a competition where politicians compete for votes, which is a scarce resource. Therefore I disagree with warnersam’s argument that Hutcheon intended to criticise the kind of competition seen between Trump and Hilary in their debates, because presidential elections, in my opinion, is a zero-sum game, a competition, where the competitors (candidates) are supposed to strive to win at the expense of the other competitors’ losses to become the president. (








1 Comment

  1. Even if politicians always compete for votes and one of them has to win necessarily, couldn’t they cooperate in making the elections season smoother by not dividing the country? They’d still be competing, but cooperating to achieve common goals for the benefit of the common good.


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