Cooperation and Competition: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Competition and cooperation may seem like opposites, but they are connected in a way that it is impossible to find a society where the two do not coexist. Molina’s article ‘Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology’ explains how cooperation became prominent due to competition from the perspectives of social anthropology and literature. In my personal opinion, Molina’s take on these issues are mostly accurate. Competition and conflict are indeed disadvantages for the development of a “moral community”, thus the need to cooperate arises from the destructive impacts of competition.

Cooperation is most crucial in situations of survival, for example, in a foraging society members are dependent on each other and become “obligate collaborative forgers”, meaning they have direct interest in the wellbeing of their group members. Similarly, cooperation also plays a role on a smaller scale. From my experience as a student, I can tell that group projects require a good amount of team work to get the task done. Group members have to rely on each other because individually no one would be able to finish the project in a timely manner or have the resources to do so in the first place. Furthermore, when the main goal is to please the teacher as well as to create a better project than other groups, collaboration is necessary in order to continue competition with other groups. Therefore, competition and conflict between group members would be a disadvantage. Instead, individuals of the group become dependent on each other; assigning tasks, sharing resources, and working collaboratively to achieve the shared intention.

Regarding the formal and structural differences, Molina’s article differs from Bateson and Hutcheon’s article by incorporating images related to the subject into the article. Descriptions of those images are also included. From my perspective, the pictures provided give the reader a better understanding of how the concepts of generalized reciprocity and rituals play out in real life. In addition to that, sources and credits are not at the end, but rather at the right hand side of the article. This enables the reader to easily go through the original sources as they read the article. Furthermore, an introduction of the authors and their academic interests are present at the beginning of the article which allows the reader to gain a general sense of the article’s style. Moreover, Molina does not use a ‘call for action’ in the traditional sense that Bateson and Hutcheon do. Molina illustrates how competition and cooperation play out in different types of societies and models, such as the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”. And unlike Bateson and Hutcheon, Molina’s ‘call for action’ is more of a proposal for more research to be done on the coexistent relationship of competition and cooperation.

In conclusion, competition and cooperation are like two sides of the same coin; one cannot exists without the other. In cases of extreme competition, individuals in groups are led to cooperate and increase their chances of success. Also, to be in conflict with a group member would be a disadvantage over competition with other groups, therefore members share resources and collaborate.

Image credit: https://www.hetinkoopkantoor.nl/maple-leaf-goud/

 

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