Molina et al argue that cooperation exists in non-oppositional tandem with competition, using previous social anthropological work on hunter-gatherer, tribal, and peasant societies as evidence. Indeed, Molina and colleagues tellingly begin this article by describing the multi-disciplinary theorizing on the emergence of cooperation, between “biology, economics, archaelogy and evolutionary and social anthropology,” as “each one [contributing] different pieces to the puzzle.” From the first paragraph of this article, Molina is forwarding their “puzzle piece” not only in content, but in form as well. This article can be conceptualized as a mode of cooperation both between Molina and his colleagues, as a communal writing project, and between the authors and their wider, interdisciplinary audiences. This article is not without its competitive moments—as a published academic piece, it certainly has participated in some kind of competition for the inherent prestige in publishing and the opportunity to forward one’s own argument over another’s—but this similarly reflects Molina et al’s argument, which is that competition and cooperation co-exist. I believe Bateson was noted in class for similarly reflecting her argument in content and form.
As well, Bateson and Molina et al both invoke Darwinism and the figure of the gene or cell in their arguments, though to different effects. Bateson uses the example of the mutually beneficial evolution of nuclei in cells—endosymbiosis—to argue that “ [t]here is no such thing as independence in biology” (677). This fits into Bateson’s larger argument by troubling competition and “survival of the fittest” ideologies as not finding their origins in the natural realms. Molina et al, in contradistinction, figure the gene as that which “acts selfishly in its attempt to survive,” and the individual as that which acts cooperatively (11). If Bateson had utilized this perspective, it might have hurt her overall argument, which aims to denaturalized competition, but it fits correctly with Molina et al’s, which is the concurrence of competition with cooperation.
Bateson’s article, as the transcript of a keynote speech, varies widely from Molina et al’s in formal structure. Maggie, in their post, notes many of these differences, including their use of personal or impartial language, the different motivations they have, and the interdisciplinary versus strictly historical and anthropological evidence they utilize. In regards to this last point, Maggie makes the interesting point that while Bateson uses a wide array of evidence in order to reach a larger audience, to those of us not fluent in social anthropology, her speech may feel “off.” It is ironic that Molina et al’s article, though using language and concepts that those outside of social anthropology might not understand, feels more comprehensible, if only because it more easily fits inside a generalized academic format.
Kohn, in his opening two chapters, casts doubt on competition as a natural characteristic of humanity, and leans towards socialization as an explanation for its proliferation. Kohn makes the distinction between acting competitively, cooperatively, and independently—in opposition with some of our earlier readings, Kohn says that competition is not necessarily individualistic, and that cooperation is not necessarily altruistic. In this schema, however, Kohn sees competition as an “inherently undesirable arrangement” (9). I think Kohn’s chapters interface with Molina et al’s argument explicitly in the section wherein Kohn outlines how people have refuted the naturalization of competition, specifically, in the idea that cooperation is just as if not more prevalent than competition. In our wider class discussion(s) of competition, I think some of the new definitions Kohn utilizes, such as the difference between “structural competition and intentional competition,” will be useful (3).