Reading Response- “Rhetoric and Competition” by Linda Hutcheon- Competition: It’s No Game

“Rhetoric and Competition” is an article published in 2003, by Linda Hutcheon. In her work she puts heavy emphasis on the negative influence of competition on the academic community, while not realizing the positives that it can bring.

She discovers that competition creates violence in people, making it a real threat to any group or society. We are coming slowly to an age where violence can only be countered by violence: ‘Whether we fail or succeed in our effort to subdue it, the real victor is always violence itself. . . . The more men strive to curb their violent impulses, the more these impulses seem to prosper’. All of this is done for the ‘sake of winning an argument’. Because of this drive for competition, we may be starting to feel less like a group of students, but more as individuals trying to survive. She adds to that by saying that we are embracing the business model of competition. She emphasises the fact that we may be approaching the zero-sum game, where the benefits of one party must be balanced by the losses of a different party creating an equilibrium. As she asks: “if some “win,” does that necessarily mean that others have to lose?”

Hutcheon also notices a very drastic change in the American teaching- the mode of thought has been translated from ‘a critical mode to a very aggressive and competitive mode’ in which students try to prove each other wrong. She also points out that the ‘phallocentric’ values have also expanded past the gender realm. It can now be seen that women are also joining the competitive world.

Moreover, she sees the words of Terdiman- for every discourse there should be a contrary and transgressive counter-discourse- as being accurate, however, in her opinion she would change and add to that. To her this should sound: for every discourse there is ‘a complementary and inclusive counter-discourse’. She sees that counter-discourses are more of the form both/and rather than neither/or. They are additive to the discourse and dominant. The counter-discourse ‘provokes this kind of critical thinking that exposes our gaps, fragilities, and vulnerabilities within dominant discourses’. She concludes that the idea of counter-discourses may potentially offer a new model for the academic ways of thinking and writing- a more collaborative, syncretic and accretive method. At the same time, she realizes that there are probably many other possibilities to change the academic community, to prevent it from becoming an even more ‘wolfish’ place.

Having said that, we can see that Hutcheon’s article is very similar to that of Bateson in the sense that they both feel like competition and individualism is ruining the society and there is a need to put more emphasis on co-operation and interdependence. They both feel like competition has been rooted in Americans since they were born and drives them to violence and ‘personal attack’. Additionally, the structure of both articles is similar in that it represents more of an written down speech. On the other hand, we can also find differences in their arguments. The former’s point of view is narrower and more concentrated on the academic society, while Bateson discusses the problem of competition on much more general terms.

On the other side of the spectrum is Werron’s work, which largely defers from the articles of the other two scholars. He mostly discusses the evolution of the concept of competition and the long-term effects of it. What also must be said, is that in comparison to Hutcheon and Bateson, he has a much more neutral stance on the influence of competition in today’s increasingly globalized world. The structure of his work is also much more different, as it is a scientific journal entry rather than a written down speech.

In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with making the world a more co-operative place, however, I do not think that competition brings out only negative effects to our academic environment. Of course, as she pointed out, there are negative effects, but it is completely forgotten that competition drives innovation and improvement. The academic environment cannot get better without the pressure of other universities/colleges.

In my opinion, competition acts similarly in all areas of life, and is one of the main factors that drives me to get better every day. Even if I am not competing with any of my peers, I challenge myself to be better than I was an hour, day, week ago. It doesn’t matter if it is academics or sport, I just want to get better. Therefore, I think that competition should not be eliminated from our everyday life, however, we should be careful not to forget about being more co-operative and open to others.

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