Competition and Cooperation: Elements for Success

Two heads are better than one, and anthropologists definitely seem to agree. In the article “ Cooperation and Competition in social anthropology,” produced J.L Molina, M.J. Lubbers, H Valenzuela-Garcia and S. Gómez-Mestres Cooperation, the authors discuss how cooperation and competition are not opposites of each other, but rather two entities that pertain entirely to themselves. For example, The authors believe that collaboration is the baseline for all human communities, not an adaptive answer to competition. This perspective is very enticing as it recommends the pursuit of balance rather than an all or nothing between collaboration and competition.


In my opinion, this article implies that a third party is present between cooperation and competition, linking the two together. This implied concept would best be defined as success. Not success per se in the sense of prosperity, but rather success in the sense that a goal has been achieved. Whether this goal is to survive one more day or to ensure your tribe is not killed by another tribe. With this implied concept of success, we can relate competition as a promotion of success(the situation that is causing a party to want or need to achieve a goal) and cooperation as a means to succeed.


Many of us in the PO3 group discussed how we believed Bateson’s call to action of a reduction in competition and an increase in cooperation was flawed, especially regarding corporations reducing how competitive they were. Our thought process being that competition was a driving mechanism and a requirement for the pursuit of success. Many examples can be found in last week’s write, but a particularly good example is found in James Krukowski post. He states “ It is competition that contributes to innovation (within the proper context) and it is essential to promote competition within the context of the free market if we are to advance our industrialized society.”. From the viewpoint of the creators of this article, however, this is not entirely correct. Although competition is an integral part of advancement and innovation, it is not a method by which we achieve these goals.  Through collaboration, we can pursue innovation in far greater ways than we could by ourselves.


I think the idea that competition and cooperation are in two separate streams is unique, but not flawless. Competition can detract from cooperation, particularly in scenarios where goods are particularly scarce. For example, going to the hunter-gatherer time, there was undoubtedly moments where one individual had to compete, in this case probably a competition of physical prowess, i.e., combat, for a resource scarce enough that collaboration could not guarantee success. As well because of the insertion of a qualifier to this argument, we can see that competition can overrule collaboration, but not the opposite. This does not mean that they are opposites of each other, but it does indicate that adverse effect can occur. Unfortunately, just as altruism and benevolence are seen historically, so too is greed and desperation.


In conclusion, the concepts proposed in this article are intriguing. Collaboration and competition being entirely separate, and both playing their own roles in our achievements sheds new light on what we have studied in class. However, these ideas are not without flaws and would undoubtedly benefit from further study.


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