Reading Response – Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon (PO3)

Linda Hutcheon’s article ‘Rhetoric and Competition’ aims for the reader to recognize the current state of competition in academic discourse, and requests that we start working in a collaborative manner instead of “wolfish belittling”.

In terms of content and structure, Hutcheon’s article is most similar to Bateson’s ‘Myths of independence and competition’. Both Hutcheon and Bateson’s arguments heavily relied on normative statements, meaning their reasonings were embedded in value. For instance, Bateson’s content explored how society should eliminate competition and promote cooperation in order to achieve what is desirable. By arguing this, Bateson determined what desirable is based upon her own moral codes and preferences. Hutcheon also used normative reasoning when she expressed dissatisfaction with “higher education becoming wolfish”, and used examples from her colleagues and personal experiences to prove her point. On the other hand, Werron’s argument in ‘Why do we believe in competition? A historical-sociological view of competition as an institutionalised modern imaginary’ depended more on the empirical approach where he used value-free and objective facts such as free global competition’s impact on the market and society post Cold War. Additionally, Werron frequently referred to other established historians and therefore ensured credibility.

Furthermore, regarding content, Hutcheon’s was strictly focused on the effects of competition in the academia, while Bateson was more concerned with the impacts of individualism centered culture on society. Bateson’s writing touched upon the unattainably of individualism and stressed the importance of exercising trust and collaboration. Hutcheon recognized that competition in academic discourse leads to “a culture of demolition and dispute” rather than constructive criticism and a process in which everyone learns. Moreover, both Hutcheon and Bateson agree that Western culture has harmed cooperation to some extent by favoring individualism and rewarding winners in competition.

From a semantic point of view, the word competition was used as a “zero-sum-game” in Hutcheon’s article where “the opposition must be destroyed; our profits must be maximized by minimizing the profits of others”. In Bateson’s article ‘competition’ was used as to emphasize a lack of cooperation and encouragement of individualism. Meanwhile, in Werron’s paper, competition is for the approval of a third party and without an audience competition would be of lesser importance.

From my perspective, in like manner to Hutcheon, the academia should be a safe place for proposing ideas and building up on previous knowledge by using constructive criticism. Academic discourse is not the place for a ‘winner takes it all’ competitive approach, where there are losers and winners. Instead, as Hutcheon points out, there are no losers in the production of knowledge since it is an “additive” process in which everyone gains.




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