The research of cooperation and competition versus a vendetta against competition

Molina et. Al’s research article Cooperation & Competition in Social Anthropology delves into the finer details of societal structures by organizing each type by the various levels of cooperation and competition involved within the members’ relationship with one another. With accounts of multiples studies incorporated within this paper, Molina et al concludes that while different types of societal structures can be differentiated from one another, there are also overlapping characteristics that are unique with each cultural group. With that, they argue that cooperation is indeed inherent, and that many cultural structures have evolved off of that basis. In Molina’s piece, to start explaining the evolutionary process between cooperation and competition, “three primary mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation”, referring to kin selection, reciprocity, and group selection, are brought up.

First looking at the general idea of each concept, Molina et al. later dissects the concept into its more intricate details, later identifying the primary trait behind kin selection, altruistic behaviour between members of one’s own family, is not entirely due to kin-to-kin affection, but rather due to an innate desire within our gene’s to help those who are related to us (Molina et al. 11). When placed together with Bateson’s piece, The Myths of Independence & Competition,  she argues more on the idea that “We have not learned how to co-operate”(Bateson 675), going off from the idea that although cooperation is built into our system, we choose to ignore it and follow the path of individualism society has deemed to be the more befitting lifestyle for human beings. Both are similar in the sense that they both agree on the notion cooperation is inherent within our genes, but differentiate on how they use that fact to push towards their agendas, the latter towards education on the recognition of the varying types of cooperative mechanisms in the research of human societies, and the former being written for the purpose of convincing the audience, ‘cooperation ought to be the way to go, competition in humanity is only doomed to bring disaster’.


Further down, reciprocity is also brought up in Molina et. Al’s piece, stating the purpose behind groups having reciprocal traits are also not necessarily due to pure altruism, but the trait has been evolved because mutualistic cooperation allows for more effective competition (Molina et. Al 11). Judging off of Bateson’s speech alone, if she were to come across this contention, she would most likely argue against the contention that cooperation evolved from the need to compete, but rather the evolution of cooperation comes from the need to survive rather than the need to compete (Bateson 676). Although the terms ‘competition’ and ‘means of survival’ are two distinct terms (potential counterparts in Bateson’s perspective), they are treated as interchangeable in Molina et. Al’s piece. The differentiation between the two are not as important in Molina et. Al’s piece as both terms can serve the same purpose in providing insight on human society, whereas the distinction in Bateson’s piece is crucial in her main argument- that competition is not equal to means of survival.


While I can understand both authors in their contentions, the two pieces are not comparable because of the fact that they serve two very different purposes; one is simply for education, and the other is a call-to-action. If anything, I believe reading Molina et. Al’s Cooperation & Competition in Social Anthropology is more insightful simply because the piece presents research on the basis for the evolution of cooperation in multiple types of societies, whereas Bateson’s is more of a piece meant to be influential towards the audience, inciting acts of altruism in this dark and depressing society. If not for the external forces that pressured me to finish this response within a given amount of time, I would have certainly enjoyed reading the two articles. I do feel that for the purposes of ASTU, Bateson’s paper would be far more impactful as there is no need for us to learn about the specifics of Anthropology (although it may be helpful in writing papers down the line), but there is a need for us to learn about different perspectives on a fact that may have been considered (mostly) universally accepted- that Charles Darwin quoted “survival of the fittest”(Bateson 675).

What I am trying to say is that reading cold hard facts or research material of any kind is useless without the author having a specific agenda for writing the narrative. Even for the purposes of education, I feel that those papers should be read by people specializing in those areas (i.e. Read in an anthropology class). Heck, all of us in ASTU are in the faculty of Arts- if I was interested in learning about facts I would go to the faculty of Science- what I am more interested in are people’s opinions- no matter how unfounded those claims may be. Whether or not I take those claims seriously depend on the education I have received on the identification of valid claims and arguments- something to be learned in ASTU. But yes, I did enjoy reading those two pieces.





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