Cooperation and competition in social anthropology (Molina)

#-wrds150 Reading response

The authors of “Cooperation and competition in social anthropology” provide a social anthropological research of this topic by reviewing competition and cooperation in the literature and presenting social anthropological theories in three different types of human societies(Hunter-gatherer, tribal and peasant). Unlike all the past articles read in this course, this article argues that competition and cooperation co-exist and Molina explains how this phenomenon has been there throughout the world history. This article argues differently from all the articles read before, It does not paint a bad picture on competition and does not prioritize cooperation to the expense of competition.

In this article the author begins by exploring the idea of cooperation in human communities,Why do humans cooperate so extensively? he answers this question in a broad range with the motive of highlighting the specific contributions that social anthropology has made in the field of research concerning the idea of “competition”. He gave the example of kin selection meaning that people tend to react and cooperate more when their families are involved. The author also focus on the act of altruism which draws attention on mutualistic cooperation as an individual strategy for more effective competition, where people help each other with an expectation that they will get the same favour back through the same person or a third party. He also explains that competition tends to increase between individuals who think that they are less likely to meet again.

As compared to Bateson’s “The myth of independence” which was putting much emphasis on cooperation and coordination, Molina is placing same emphasis on both competition and cooperation. The previous articles put much consideration on convincing their audience to replace competition with cooperation in order to survive, they achieved this by giving examples on how bad competition can be. On the other hand, Molina digs deep in the society and based his evidences on fieldwork and explore how human nature is surviving with both competition and cooperation, he places same importance on both phenomenon because they are not opposite entities they co-exist “the concept of moral economy”. Furthermore, Molina also explains how different societies are trying very hard to regulate competition among their communities. He concludes by making an emphasis that even though people tend to share the same fundamental niche it does not prevent them from helping each other.


  1. Hi,
    I really liked the last paragraph when you discussed Molina’s ideas on competition compared to other authors we discussed about in class. I especially liked the way you rephrased Molina’s idea as to “explore how human nature is surviving with both competition and cooperation.” I agree with this thought that competition and cooperation do co-exist and one can not abide without the other, if that is what you agree with too. However, I wasn’t really able to catch your argument. This post did seem more like a summary rather than a response, so maybe next time use the author’s argument to make your argument.


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