Competition: Come Together

            Throughout the second week of WRDS 150, I partook in a class discussion about “rhetoric,” and how an individual can persuasively make an argument. The definition of “rhetoric” has been defined in numerous ways and evolved through studies. After those discussions, I now understand “rhetoric” as the manner in which one influences others through the use of non-coercive or manipulative techniques (as outlined by Michael Schandorf). Furthermore, a strong argument is made through the practice of evidence and validity, which directs us to three dimensions of communication: relevance, credibility, and attention.  

            Mary Catherine Bateson’s journal article, “The Myths of Independence and Competition”, targets an audience who specializes in biological and behavioral science. Through the use of appropriate jargon and relevant evidence, Bateson successfully applies the three dimensions of communication relevant to her audience’s discipline. The terminology of Anthropocene, cybernetics, and endosymbiosis helped narrate Bateson’s analogies, and the addition of scholars, like Gregory Bateson and Charles Darwin, made the necessary additions to build relevance, credibility, and attention. The journal article concludes with the notion that human society can only progress if we act cooperatively as an interdependent system as opposed to the myth of maintaining completive independence.

            In comparison to Bateson’s academic article, Linda Hutcheon’s research article “Rhetoric and Competition,” addresses to the broader scholarly community. Similar to Bateson’s paper, relevance, credibility, and attention are utilized as well. However, in place of biologists and behavioral scientists, Hutcheon provides arguments from scholars of the English faculty. An example of this can be seen when she uses Terdiman’s notion of counter-discourse to conclude with her interpretations. Overall, she argues that academic discourse should work as a space for complementary and inclusive critical thinking as an alternative to the demolition and enmity of the current academic culture.

            Both scholars successfully form evidence and validity to their respective discourse community, but as stated above, their approaches to the debate of competition were different. Competition can be defined in many ways, as illustrated in sophiawilson6729’s blog post. Nevertheless, Bateson and Hutcheon come to the same conclusion that my classmates and I have collectively established last week: “competition better resembles a dance than it does to a war.” In this metaphor, the notion of competition as a cooperative (Bateson) and complimentary (Hutcheon) dialogue was the core argument. Like a dance between two partners, there’s a reciprocation process between the two beneficiaries. An argument is made not to eliminate an opposition (like a war), but rather to contribute to the debate.

            Lastly, even the etymology of competition and agon reflects on the notion of togetherness. As described by Michael Schandorf, competition signifies “come together,” whereas the word agon originates from gatherings and assemblies (Hutcheon). In all, competition is about the collective and not the individual, and it exercised to help one another, not to harm each another.


  1. Hey ! Good comments on the text! ( Really cool picture too! )
    I just had a few questions regarding the last 2 paragraphs. You said that “competition better resembles a dance than it does war”. However, isn’t competition (in the general definition) exactly not about moving back and forth with a partner (dance-like) but rather quite individualistic and solo-driven? Competition is, as far as I’m concerned, not about the collective benefit but about the individual success. Maybe the competition that you’re talking about is what Hutcheon and Bateson would love competition to be like!

    To your last paragraph : The word agon indeed originally meant something like contest and gathering – however as Hutcheon wrote the word nowadays has become strongly associated with fierce competiton rather than a peaceful assembly This might be similiar with competiton.
    “Latin competere – in its late sense ‘strive or contend for (something)’
    ; from com- ‘together’ + petere ‘aim at, seek’”
    The com- in competition (competere) definetly indicates that it originally had something to with togetherness and collectivism, however maybe the meaning of this word too has changed over time and is nowadays rather associated with winning, striving for something or establishing superiority.

    I might be really off with this opinion – would love to hear what you think. 🙂

    Best regards,


  2. Hey there, great post by the way. One thing I would like to expand on is Hutcheon’s ability to draw attention and the difference between the way Hutcheon and Bateson achieve this.

    I think one of the major differences between Hutcheon and Bateson is not just limited to addressing the scholars of the English faculty alone. Rather, Hutcheon makes references to the processes of how humans have diverted from cooperation, a pursuit of truth, to competition and enmity for the purpose of ‘destroying’ one’s enemy. For example, with the etymological history of agon lets say. Therefore, by demonstrating this change, Hutcheon is able to highlight the previously additive production of knowledge, the clear winner, and contrast it with the current subtractive nature surrounding the production of knowledge. Another example of this being Donald Goellnicht’s idea to which Hutcheon references, that the sense of being, a “priesthood presiding over the dissemination of Truth and Beauty”, indicating, in my perspective, the loss of a personal entity that is not corrupted by the will of demolition, that is facilitating the spread of Truth and Beauty. Where beauty, however you define it, can be said to be the world, seen from uncorrupted eyes. Bateson, on the other hand, very much as to how you explained, utilized both the ethos of her references as well biological facts, amongst other pieces of evidence to draw attention. For example, the mention of endosymbiosis, Charles Darwin, the ethos of the Bible and its relations to the story of the Tower of Babel.


  3. Interesting analysis!

    I liked how you pointed out the differences in audience that Bateson and Hutcheon were appealing to, which explained their variations in terminology and arguments. I agree that competition can sometimes be a dance, however I believe that there are many other forms of competition. The cooperative competition you described is a positive form of competition that drives our world ahead and pushes us to work harder, but the majority of competition aims to eliminate the opposition and puts winning the argument above overall contribution. I truly believe that competition can be a benefit to society, however in its current form the majority of competition operates as a zero-sum game.


  4. Hello benirohr,

    I can understand how one can see competition as something driven by an individual’s success. As depicted in both Bateson’s and Hutcheon’s writings, the concept of competition closely resembles what Werron’s defines as a conflict: an elimination of interaction between conflicting parties. Both scholars approach the notion of competition as independence (individuals contending against each other, eliminating potential competitors) vs interdependence, or eliminative critical thinking (scholars disqualifying and defeating each other’s claims, eliminating dialogue) vs complementary critical thinking. Each of them demonstrates competition as a conflict. This would justify why one would draw the similarity between a conflict and a war (which focuses on elimination). As Werron argues, that competition is a social form of interaction that involves two struggling parties; like a dance, there must be at least two parties collaborating (the interaction) and exerting energy (the struggle).

    As you’ve implied, the Latin word competere, derives from the act of “striving together”. Hutcheon explains how agon “came to have its associations with fierce competition, with struggle, through a linkage with the contest held among the contenders for prizes at these games”. The idea of winning, like you’ve stated can be applied to Werron’s argument of how competition exists only through the struggle of a scarce resource. Since not everyone can win in an artificial zero-sum game, the act of winning becomes a competition.


  5. Hello Aaron Ma,

    I agree that there are more differences between Hutcheon and Bateson that go beyond their directed audience. For example, there are differences with the way they construct their arguments (how they decide to guide their audience’s attention throughout their composition from the issue, to the evidence, to the solution). Unlike Bateson, Hutcheon clearly states some qualifiers/exceptions in her arguments by bringing up opposing arguments from Richard Terdiman, and by acknowledging her bias. As you’ve stated, Hutcheon does make references to how humans have diverted from cooperation to competition. However, I believe that Bateson has made that same argument in her written speech as well. In Bateson’s academic journal, it suggests that we must “get corporations to stop competing and [to] get them to co-operate in a sustainable manner instead of seeking ever-higher profits.” As a result, both of them views competition as a damaging practice and as a conflict.


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