The Inevitable Coexistence of Competition & Cooperation

Image Credits: Wikipedia Website [1]

“Cooperate frequently and share fully” is arguably the sentence that spoke out the most to me while reading and analyzing Molina’s work. This sentence captures the notion that all these anthropologists are trying to get at here, and that cooperation and competition must coexist in any society. The authors of this piece of work seem to believe that cooperation and competition are two entities that operate in their own spheres but ultimately are both present in each other’s spheres of influence. The general idea that is trying to be achieved here is something I personally agree with and will delve deeper into.

I believe that cooperation is a byproduct of competition in a society and a natural progression of human civilization. Humans want to achieve social stratification in their band or society and in order for them to do that they engage in regulated competition for prestige. This is where cooperation is born when people want to achieve a higher social status they naturally compete with one another to get that, however, it is stated in the text “The kula ring refers to the gift economy in the Trobriand Islands where non-use items that are considered valuable are exchanged as gifts, in order to enhance partners’ social prestige.” . This shows us how humans have come around to solve their problem of competition by cooperating with one another. Other pieces in the text support my claim of cooperation being a byproduct of competition, as humans we want to show the rest of the group of our physical or mental feats however those feats are even greater when working together. In the text, it talks about a stag hunt where it is more beneficial for the collective group to work together to hunt bigger animals rather than one person going out and hunting a small animal. This implies at first competition prevailed where people hunted small animals in order to gain social prestige, but in reality, their act was of little benefit to the society. However, when members of set society work together they hunt a bigger animal which is more beneficial to the entirety of the group and in some way boosted the social standing of all members involved. I believe that once our competition has been turned into cooperation it leads to greater feats of the society in general, this gives birth to cooperation and coordination within a society which is expressed in the text, “Coordination and cooperation became more complex, bringing in the need for the creation of social norms, institutions and practices that underline group mindedness.”.

This idea is touched upon greatly as well in Elise Juncker’s “Cooperation and Competition in Cooperation and Competition” [2]  In how at first cooperation and competition might seem to be polar opposites, but in reality, they are both needed, in control, in order to have a fully functioning society. I would like to use the example of how when one applies to medical school they must solve a test and get a mark in the certain percentage bracket among their peers to be admitted into medical school. However, as soon as one is in medical school they learn that they need to cooperate with their fellow doctors and nurses in order to have the smoothest and most successful operation. This, I believe, is a prime example of how competition leads to cooperation in our real life. Once this state of equilibrium between cooperation and competition is achieved, a society can thrive and this is expressed in the text, “People can compete for land, water, better prices, or bargain with their peers, but never to the point of annihilating their opponents.”. I also believe that this sentiment is also shared in Eleanor’s “Cooperation and Competition: Two Sides of the Same Coin” [3].

This text written by Molina and her fellow anthropologist colleagues proposes a different view on the role of competition in our society, rather a radical shift than fellow anthropologist Bateson. Bateson tried to sell the audience the idea that a reduced amount of competition in our society would yield us much greater benefits in most aspects of our lives, both public and private. (I touched a bit about that in my previous reading response [4]However, Molina tells us that we should have a balance between cooperation and competition, she tells us how competition is something unavoidable in our lives. Both of these ladies do lean towards the notion that competition shouldn’t be at the forefront of our society, but they disagree on the means of implementing this idea. I believe that Felicity Cheung’s “An Anthropological View on Competition” [5] does a great service in comparing the two.

In conclusion, I believe that with evidence from the text and my fellow classmates that my idea of cooperation being a byproduct of competition is being proven true. This article gives a unique perspective on how competition and cooperation have been and should be implemented in our modern society. It differs from other articles in how it uses real examples and doesn’t rely on theories and personal belief systems. I think that competition slowly evolves into cooperation in a society or group through the individuals and their actions as a collective because in the end “Cooperate frequently and share fully”.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s