To Cooperatively Compete with Others

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Throughout their assessment of the synergy between competition and cooperation, entitled Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology, J.L. Molina, M.J. Lubbers, H. Valenzuela-Garcia and S. Gómez-Mestres, the text’s four authors, strive to comprehend the contributions social anthropology has brought to our understanding of Man’s competitive and cooperative tendencies. More precisely, their defended argument is simply that social anthropology sheds light on competition and cooperation’s relation from a different angle, thus proving that both coexist in almost every known society. In other words, utilizing their expertise on the topic as members of the research group named GRAFO (Group for Research in Algorithms For Optimization), the authors suggest that social anthropology’s different way of examining human behaviour is precisely what permitted research to distinguish true competition from apparent symbiosis. To do so, the GRAFO’s four members relate competition to forms of social cooperation for the readers to realize that today’s society tends to stigmatize all forms of direct opposition without acknowledging their reoccurring beneficial, or neutral, results. For example, when explaining the third mechanism for the evolution of cooperation, the anthropological researchers claim that our natural group selection can either be for our group, or for our individual selves. In effect, a group member could either decide to compete against his/her own group members for his/her own interests, or could decide to compete against other groups for his/her own group’s interests. Therefore, in the aforementioned example, according to the authors, competition and cooperation should be studied in tandem since one does not exist without the other in our communities. This being mentioned, when comparing this reading with Bateson’s, I believe Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology to be a more proper description of cooperation and competition in our society since its content offers clearer references to both terms’ coexistence rather than their definitive opposition.


In similar fashion to Bateson’s The Myths of Independence and Competition, the concept of competition is examined through an anthropologist’s eyes in Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology. However, I believe Bateson neglects cooperation in a way the Anthropological Week’s reading does not. Of course, Bateson concludes by promoting cooperation by stating that we are all tiny individuals living as parts of a broader system of life. However, I find Bateson’s discourse overly simplifies the coexistence of competition and cooperation by suggesting that a situation can either be an instance of competition, or an instance of cooperation, but not both. For example, when evaluating the level of competitivity in American society, Bateson states the following: “I regard the United States as an extremely individualistic society, in which individualism is of- ten a form of conformity and often, too, a justification of competition in preference to co-operation.” (The Myths of Independence and Competition, p. 2) In her statement, by regarding competition as being in preferenceto cooperation, Bateson is implying that competition’s existence is only possible thanks to cooperation’s non-existence in any given situation. On the contrary, this week’s reading depicts competition between social groups as cooperation between intra-team members, thus meaning both can coexist. Additional differences can be found within the texts’ structures. For instance, Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropologyis segmented into titled paragraphs, each observing the coexistence of competition and cooperation in different societies. Doing so, the authors reinforce their argument’s supporting evidence since examples and explanations are given for more than one type of society. On the other hand, like Vicente Calvo mentions in his reading response, explaining competition and cooperation repetitively for four different types of societies does, in my opinion, render the content relatively redundant. Furthermore, this week’s anthropological take on competition is written in a way that does not evidently promote the authors’ opinion, whereas speech-oriented discourse like Bateson’s explicitly announces personal interpretations in the form of “me, I think…“ sentences.


To conclude, Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology clearly explains the steps and the logic behind the social anthropology of competition and cooperation in different societies. In comparison to Bateson, this week’s reading is semantically more objective, whereas Bateson’s rhetorical approach aims to convince the audience through careful word selection and subjectivity. Furthermore, certain structural differences such as titled paragraphs distinguish both texts. All aspects being considered, I personally find the Anthropological Week’s reading to be more representative of the reality between competition and cooperation because it does not view competition as a circumstance in which cooperation has been eliminated by the parties involved.

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