We are taught that cooperation is the ideal in so many fields of life, yet we reject it in those exact same fields. ‘Competition and cooperation: the wisdom to know when’, discusses competition as a choice and the factors that influence that. I highlight capitalism as a driving force in competition and the biggest situational factor in our subconscious drive to compete. Differing priorities sustain our current system and are also what allow for the discussion and analysis of the role cooperation plays in our lives.
I remember playing a game at summer camp when I was a kid that taught us about sharing. The game entailed sitting in a circle and being told to close our eyes. Every round, everybody had the option to either raise their hand or not. If nobody raised their hand everyone was given one piece of candy, if one person raised their hand they were given a lot of candy, and if multiple people raised their hands nobody got candy. There are obviously differences between this and the Red-Blue exercise, but I find it very interesting to see how such similar activities can be applied to such different demographics. Both activities have a result that highlight cooperation as the ideal method of participation. If we are teaching both children and adults this ideal, why is it so systematically rejected?
Cooperation being held over competition only works when it is legitimately more beneficial to cooperate. The Neo-liberal Capitalist society we live in doesn’t necessarily make it so cooperation is the ideal. Individuals are constantly vying for economic success and in our current system, that success comes at the expense of others. No matter how much cooperation is glorified, there are systematic institutions that make competition the most viable option for individual success. The fact that there is theoretically a finite amount of capital, and capitalism is about the acquisition of capital, then there isn’t a possible outcome that doesn’t involve competition. If we were truly looking to promote cooperation we would all be socialists.
Bateson spoke about a need for cooperation, referencing our inability to communicate and make a collective decision, specifically in relation to climate change. When it comes to climate change, a collective issue, nothing will be done without cooperation. Does the capitalist structure we abide by make such cooperation impossible? In thinking about this, I find it interesting to exercise the thought of a socialist governmental structure. In reality, as history has shown us, socialism doesn’t work as well as it does in theory, but there are still many aspects of it that would be beneficial, especially in regards to our ability to communicate. As represented in the Red-Blue exercise, participants are less willing to communicate when they feel threatened. A socialist structure would eliminate that perceived threat in our society allowing for more productive communication and collective decision making in discussing climate change.
Garcia et al et al spoke about social comparison as an influence on competition. I think the factors of social comparison stated by Garcia et al can also be applied to decision making in relation to competition. To further explore the decision making process, I see it necessary to ask the question of how strongly a situational factor can influence decision making. In this case, Capitalism and an economic oriented system are the situational factors I would like to highlight. I think our lives are too heavily embedded with a capitalist mentality to lead a ‘cooperation over competition’ oriented life. Not to say we are unable to cooperate in any sense, but Berg mentioned competition as our “knee jerk” reaction to a threat, and I think large societal and situational change would need to occur for cooperation to be that same “knee jerk” reaction.
The factors that influence decision making are an interesting way to analyze our choices and the outcomes of those choices. In our current standing, I don’t see it as very possible to instil cooperation as our subconscious reaction to maximizing our individual benefit, although this thought allows for a greater discussion on the outcomes of the decisions we’ve made. Giving more thought to ones decisions and the factors that influenced them, results in a much more aware and emotionally intelligent individual, which could lead to a more aware and emotionally intelligent society. Change in a situational factor begins from the individual and this concept is a small possible step in the direction of a cooperation oriented society.
Akers and Porter discuss emotional intelligence and the categories that define what it means to be emotionally intelligent. The categories could all be attributed to cooperation in some regard, and nowhere is competition represented as a positive factor of emotional intelligence. The article states that ”a study of Harvard graduates in business, law, medicine and teaching showed a negative or zero correlation between an IQ indicator (entrance exam scores) and subsequent career success. Three examples illustrate the importance of emotional competencies.(Akers & Porter)” I find it interesting how competition is so ingrained in business, which directly contradicts the fact that emotional intelligence benefits people in business. Individual priorities then enter the conversation which I think is a good way to justify the lack of support for an emotionally intelligent community. One can support emotional intelligence and cooperation, but prioritize economic success over another party, which brings us back to fact that competition is a choice.
A governmental structure that properly balances individuals priorities doesn’t exist, meaning there will always be dissatisfaction with our relationship with competition and cooperation. I don’t think it’s pointless to promote cooperation, but we must acknowledge that our situational factors outweigh our individual factors, which means the strong presence of competition in our lives regardless of how cooperation is promoted. To contradict myself a little, I do think we will reach a point where the individual factors will overcome the situational promotion of competition and cooperation will compete with competition.