Cooperation: the inevitable element of competition

When dicussing and investigating the nature of competition, it is, however, crucial to examine the opposiite possibility of the phenomenon – cooperation. In their scholar article – Cooperation & Competition In Social Anthropology, Moilna, explores the coexistence of competition and cooperation in modern society, illustrating the human’s motivation to compete or collaborate in different scenarios. One of the most important needs that we, as human, are driven to go towards is the opportunity or chance of survival. As survival is so important and in high demand, people are willing to do anything, even if its immoral and putting others in danger to compete for a spot to survive. 

Darwin’s theory of evolution is commonly used as an example when talking about competition and survival, “survival of the fitttest” is the term (coined by Spencer). In short, it coins the idea that the one who fit best into his environment will have a chance to survive and pass on the gene. Nevertheless, we tend to forget or ignore the fact that in order to survive and successfully pass down the gene to the successive generations, that speicies also need to fit well with its social behaviour, cooperating with others to find food or to raise the youth. This reflects the literature’s third mechanism for the evolution of cooperation – group selection, emphasizing on the group and not the individual as the fittest (Bateson). It can be argued that there is a higher probability to survive when we cooperate as a group rather than competing and acting as self-interest. 

What driven my change in perspective about competition and survival is the gift-giving traditioni !Kung people in Kalahari dessert that Moline mentioned in their article. Living in an extreme environment where there is frequent floods, droughts, and famine, the gift-giving, storytelling, and visiting works like insurances and used as tools for survival. They would be spending months to craft and bring the gift to their loved one, who are 20 or 30km away, as a way to not only distract themselves from hunger but also express their strong relationships. The !Kung people understand the importance of networks, in which they can depend on during difficult times. Even with the evolution of nucleus within our cells require a cooperation system called endosymbiosis (Lynn Margolis). The strong similarity that both Molina and Margolis expresss in their argument is the ideology of mutually beneficial when cooperation: reciprocity and endosymbiosis. 

Thirdly, human are rewarded with higher and sustainable benefits if we cooperate with trust. Game Theory in oligopoly market structure and Prisoner’s Dilemma can be use to illustrate my previous point. The Game Theory is used to proof collusion between two firm oligopolistic market, where both firms can agree to set the same price in order to maximise their profit. Nevertheless, as long as one firm breaks the collusion by decreasing the price, in long run both firms will end up in the Nash Equilibrium. This emphasize the importance of trust and prosocial behaviour within individual that can guarantee high benefits. 

To further illustrate where there is coexist of competition and competition in a society, we can split it into two spheres: prestige sphere and subsistence sphere. Competition ilustrates the prestige sphere and comes into practice when there are elements of monetary, and social status. The Tribe society includes a hierachal system, a higher social-regonition of the presitge “Big Man institution” that drives people to compete. They have potlatch and moka constitution as the market where people exchange valuable goods in return to be justified and placed at a specific social position, becoming competition for man who enjoy high social status. Subsistence sphere, in another hand, focuses to advocate and maintain egalitarian society, distributing weallth in the form of gift-giving as seen with the !Kung people in Kalahari. 

Though competition and cooperation exhibitis two contrasting ideology and principles, it is crucial to understand that they are intertwined all the time and can be changed depend on the scenario of the environment. Whether if one refuse the existence of interdependence, even when we are competing, there will always be some form of cooperation: an atheletes need to coordinate our muscles, arms, and legs need to coordinate for athelese to compete, a firm needs to cooperate its factors of production (land, labour, capital, entrepreneur) in order to compete.


  1. Hey! I agree that competition and cooperation are closely intertwined and are dependent on each other and on the context. Your reading response offers a view where the two concepts are not depicted a opposite forces, but as working together.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. yess!! I’m glad that my response clearly points out my point. I think we need to accept the fact that cooperation and competition are definitely not the opposite forces. (I like the way you compare them as forces by the way)


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