Reading Response – Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon

Hutcheon’s discourse regarding the nature of competition and its growing presence in the academia brought to light a new analysis of how competition can do more harm instead of good, and offered new alternatives for the way scholars and other members of the academic community can work together, rather than against each other to contribute to the expansion of general knowledge.

This article is the third of sources we have looked at in class, all regarding competition and its place in our society. This reading response aims to compare the three, and further examine the authors’ analyses of competition.

Hutcheon’s message

“Rhetoric and Competition” draws upon examples from within the academic community of competition growing into antagonizing behaviour among peers, and she summarizes that this use of competition leads to poor outcomes. She mentions that individualistic tendencies are becoming more present in all levels of academia, and feeds into a system favouring traits of both capitalism and Romanticism. This, she argues, is the cause of colleagues attacking each other’s work rather than attempting to build upon it and expand it, thus inhibiting us from producing more knowledge.

Hutcheon agrees that criticism is necessary and should be retained in her new criteria for “counter-discourse”, just without the element of antagonistic and aggressive elements present currently. She favours what she terms a “climate of positive copresence”.

Comparing the works

Hutcheon’s article has similar content to the works by Bateson and Werron, and draws upon some of the same conclusions about competition: it does not always lead to the most beneficial outcome, and more thought is required on how to incorporate it into our multi-faceted modern society.

While Werron differs more from the other two in that it is more of a detailed account of different thinkers’ ideas on competition throughout history, Bateson and Hutcheon both point out anecdotes in our present society that show competition and promotion of the individual rather than the group to be damaging, such as in the fight against climate change or polarization among the academic community.

Werron summarizes in his article that scholars in all fields should be urged to think about what capacity competition can function in within their disciplines, and how that contributes to society as a whole. Bateson and Hutcheon conclude similarly, promoting the idea mentioned in my classmate’s article linked here, that it may be possible for all to benefit without it being at the cost of any other, and that this is a possibility worth pursuing.


Personally, I agree strongly that individuals from all disciplines and fields, countries and communities should come together in an effort to find the best solutions for the people as a whole; in my opinion, working together will almost certainly produce better results than tearing each other down for the benefit of the few, and I believe the idea of a “climate of positive copresence” is both promising and attainable.

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