The end of competition?

J.L. Molina et al. describes the anthropological aspects of cooperation and competition in his article ‘Cooperation and competition in social anthropology’. Compared with Bateson’s article, this article explores a different aspect of competition and cooperation within the framework of the same discourse community, which is the community of cultural anthropologists. Context wise, parallels to Bateson can be drawn as both authors emphases on ‘living as part of a larger system’. However both authors draw different conclusions. J.L. Molina stated that cooperation and competition should not be seen as direct opposites but rather “two separate dimensions that coexist under their own rules”. Bateson on the other hand rejects competition in biology, stating that humans have always been interdependent creatures.

In my opinion, both articles do have a different purpose, as echoed by jinmanabe and jessiec2708. Intrinsically, the purpose and the scope of both articles are different. Bateson’s article focused on ‘debunking’ the myth of independence through various examples, whereas Molina et al. focused her research on how different cultures treat competition and cooperation. As the purpose is different, it would be logical to say that they come to different conclusions. The main similarity, however is the language used specific for their discourse community, as mentioned above. In their articles, biological, cultural and socioeconomic examples are used to build up their arguments, which such analysis is required within anthropology. Compared with Bateson’s speech-like article however, Molina’s article seems more structured, as seen by details mostly backed up by bibliographical evidence.

As seen in Molina et al.’s article, they stated that competition with forms of social cooperation can indeed exist. I think societally this is mostly the case, especially within the current capitalistic society, which parallels could be drawn on the tribal example. Society is united in the goal of gathering wealth, but within society people compete against each other to gain relative wealth, which signifies a status on the hierarchical ladder of society. However one does not have to compete with each other to gain relative wealth, as seen in the experiment of New Lanark by Robert Owens. By working with each other in a people could cooperate for mutual good, which seems more advanced than that of the peasant economy stated by Molina et al. However this is only within a community of 4000, which is relatively easy to manage compared to, for example a whole country. Historical evidence shows that humans are well capable of both cooperation and competition, from hunter-gatherer to co-operatives. Reaching the anthropocene, what balance should we strike going forward?


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