Reading Response: Rhetoric and Competition

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In Response-Rhetoric and Competition, Linda Hutcheon discusses her concerns for the academic communities relationship with competition. Hutcheon characterizes competition as being “wolfish”, critical, and to some degree even violent. Competition is displayed throughout her piece in a negative tone and as something that is leading to inefficiency and antagonism within the academics. While Hutcheon acknowledges the importance of questioning, it is clear she views scholars in the academic community as being overly-critical with the means of achieving superiority or “winning”.

In comparison to Tobias Werron’s Why do we believe in competition? A historical-sociological view of competition as an institutionalized modern imaginary, Hutcheon’s views vary greatly. According to Werron, what Hutcheon discusses in her essay might not even be considered true or pure competition. Werron states competition requires indirect interaction while competing for the scarce good of a third party, while Hutcheon seems to imply competition is merely about asserting dominance over another. Werron’s paper cautions the reader to be skeptical of the validity of competition and to not simply attribute its expansion to the rise of neo-liberal market ideology. While Werron discusses the historical and economic rise of competition in contemporary society, Hutcheon focuses on her personal experience with competition. An interesting link I found between Hutcheon and Werron’s views is that neither of them seem to validate competition as something that incentivises individuals. Werron directly questions this in his paper when he asks if competition leads to corporations tending to the needs of its audience or if it simply causes them to pay more focus to its competitors instead. In addition, Werron presents a research paper whereas Hutcheon presents a biased argument with little to no research or history on competition.

Hutcheon’s views appear to share more similarities to those of Mary Catherine Bateson. Both Bateson and Hutcheon make direct appeals to their audience, urging them to leave behind individualist culture and focus on cooperation. Furthermore, they each seem to view competition as inefficient and believe that through cooperation better results can be achieved. However, Batesons speech identifies the root of competition as stemming from Western individualistic culture where as Hutcheon agrees but seems to go further by implying competition stems from a place of aggression and need to assert dominance. Hutcheon focuses on her concerns for competition purely within academia while Bateson relates her ideas to biology, religion, child development, and even climate change.

All three pieces push their audiences to further question the root of competition and its validity in our everyday lives. As Werron stated in his paper, it is essential to further question the root and motives behind competition as it is clearly a topic where a variety of factors need to be considered. Does competition cause more issues than it solves?

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