Cooperation and Competition: A Socio-Anthropological Take


“Anthropological evidence has shown that cooperation and competition coexist in all societies known to mankind… whereby the two are not modelled as opposites but as two separate dimensions that coexist under their own rules.”


Competition and Cooperation have for a long time been seen as completely juxtaposing concepts; one only exists in response to the other. As opposing ends of the same spectrum. However, Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology by J.L. Molina, M.J. Lubbers, H. Valenzuela-Garcia and S. Gomez-Mestres, argues that to look at the two in such a binary manner would be to deprive them of their full scope of ‘identity’. As stated by J.L. Molina et al, “Cooperation has not only emerged as an answer to competition but that the two coexist in every society”.

From the article, it is clear that the two have worked in tandem since the days of the early hunter-gatherer communities. These communities comprised of ‘bands’ with 28 members on average, both from blood relations and otherwise. The literature on the same suggests that instead of brute competition existing within and between the bands, norms of sharing, reciprocity and egalitarianism reigned supreme. All characteristics of communities cooperating between each other and primarily aimed at preventing competition.

In the attempt to garner credibility, J.L. Molina (in a fashion similar to Ingraham)  references other scholarly work done within their desired disciplines -social anthropology- on the subjects of competition and cooperation. For instance, the aforementioned example of cooperation in hunter-gatherers alone is sourced from works by three different published works from 1974’s Godelier 1974; Lee & Devore to 2011’s Hill et al. By sourcing his information in this way, not only does she gain the credibility but also stays relevant to his audience who are evidently, but not exclusively, from the social anthropology discourse group.

From a structural point of view, this article differs from all earlier readings we have received in a number of ways. First, is in the form; the findings though academic in nature, seem as though they were written in a local newspaper with the classic column paragraphs immediately accredited to the genre. This contrasts the long essay forms seen in Hutcheon, Ingraham, Bateson and Werron’s own writings. Beyond this, Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology, features a visual aid, a by-line and in-page citations and references to aid the process of proofing of details or background reading for context. All these choices are key features to be explored as they speak volumes as to the intentions of J.L. Molina et al. More importantly, they are important details as the readers are prompted to find out whether the authors did this to cater to the specific needs of the discourse group, or simply to exercise their creative freedoms.


#PO5 #Anthropology #ASTU101 #cooperation #competition

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