Reading Response to Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology by Molina

In Molina’s article, cooperation ad competition in social anthropology, the author creates the claim that competition an cooperation are not inconsistent entities, but are mutually compliments of one another and have built off of each other in human history. The author builds off the Prisoner’s Dilemma of two actors pursuing their own interests as the manifestation of their own undoing, by claiming that humans have orchestrated their societies, using practices that they have used in various scenarios to create consistency in upholding its structure as seen in its maintenance of reciprocity. @silaslm takes into account that both actors in the Prisoner’s dilemma will fail if both pursue individual interests. It is very interesting how Molina uses “moral economy” as he acclaims that some may maintain the practice of asymmetrical reciprocity with the claim that it has consistently worked, especially in peasant societies and where a patron will protect the client (fiscally), if the client provides their services. Plus, that claim must be made by the patron because if deferred reciprocity is not endorsed, then the societal structure will fall.

Some may see this as a competition of gains, in order to obtain prestige. Molina does recognize this reality, which is certainly comparable to Hutcheon or Bateson, who claim that competition is not even remotely a part of the same dynamic that cooperation operates in and that collaboration triumphs as the means of interaction in all systems. Hutcheon also claims that competition is used only to beat others to bring them down. Molina, however, brings both pieces of alternative viewpoints a fair elucidation as he claims that competition has also been used as a means of who has the ability to create exchanges, which is transferable as prestige in tribal communities. However, Molina also does bring out the claim that the only true way to win in a cooperative and competitive environment is to maintain the trust of those who they exchange with, whilst accumulating the most valuables. That is how competition cannot exist without cooperation. This does tie back to the Prisoner Dilemma because it only fails since there is a lack of trust between the two actors. Thus, as long as trust is maintained, asymmetrical reciprocity under the cloak of generalized reciprocity may work in a society with patron-client relations, since the patron maintains the trust of the client with claims of it being the socialized ritual, even if the patron accumulates more valuables. However, it must be reiterated that this system can only work if the client does indeed trust the patron, otherwise the current structure will not reproduce as it will be seen as faulty by the community as a whole.

This, as a whole, is very intriguing as various conclusions drawn of how cooperation and competition manifest themselves are mostly dependent on where it was observed and the intended message that the author intends to create. Molina seems to go in the direction that the existence of competition is inevitable, but can only operate if cooperation exists, and vice versa. It will certainly be interesting to see in further depth to what extent should one exist beyond, or in harmony with the other.

#WRDS150 #14M #Anthropology #adamlittle5856


  1. I really like the way in which you’ve shown the differences between Molina’s perspective on the relationship between competition and cooperation and Hutcheon and Bateson’s arguments. I agree with the fascination of how context really does change ideas and dynamics of certain structures in all parts of life. Although Molina argues while competition is unavoidable and cannot exist without cooperation, in other readings we have heard a different story – competition constantly exists without cooperation, and we need to implement cooperation more in our lives to have a more social beneficial version of competition. I was just wondering where you stood on this idea. Do you think we need cooperation to be competitive, and do we need trust to be cooperative?


  2. I respect you’re clarification on how Molina explained the relationship between competition and cooperation. I, however, partly disagree with the fact that competition needs cooperation as opposed to Molina’s view point. In my point of view, there are some kinds of competition that does not need cooperation. For instance, if I was sprinting to win a gold medal over an athlet, I would not need cooperation from my opponent. It is the same thing if I was an entrepreneur selling the same product that another entrepreneur is selling, I would definitely wish his business went down so as to reduce market competition. To what extent do you think Competition and cooperation coexist?


  3. I completely agree with your analysis that Molina approaches the comparision between competition and cooperation from a very different standpoint than Bateson or Hutcheon. However, I find that while you interpreted that ‘Molina seems to go in the direction that the existence of competition is inevitable, but can only operate if cooperation exists, and vice versa’, I feel as if, especially since the purpose of this paper was to provide a social anthropological perspective on competition and cooperation, Molina is trying to portray the fact that competition and collaboration are independent of one another. The perspective that I got out of this paper was that competition and collaboration are two separate mechanisms that are regulated separately and should not be treated as byproducts of one another. However, I am interested in what caused you to interpret this paper differently from myself and I think that there is room for discussion in regards to how Molina wishes her audience to percieve the relationship (if there is one) between competition and cooperation.


  4. Hello, I really like how you pointed out how Molina interprets cooperation and competition as interconnected, unlike Bateson and Hutcheon, who thought of the two as independent of one another. I also like how you connected Molina’s claims to the prisoner’s dilemma to show how a lack of trust can ultimately cause both actors to fail.
    I take it that Molina is arguing that in all situations, one must have trust in order to truly win. However, there are perhaps some situations in which trust may not be a necessary element for an actor to win, such as in individual races. In this case, do you agree with Molina’s claim that trust is necessary for one to win?


  5. Thank you for clarifying so well on Molina’s different perspective from Hucheon and Bateson. I love how you addressed her point that cooperation and competition often compliment each other, which leads to beautiful things. However, I don’t necessarily think that competition and cooperation always come hand. I’m glad to see that another fellow student also thinks that there are times when cooperation and competition necessarily compliment each other. Another person mentioned context, and I would like to just say that context is especially important in this matter as well. Whether competition and cooperation compliment each other depends entirely on the context.


  6. @cleacatona6529 Thank you for the reply. I believe that we do need trust in order to be competitive, otherwise, if we look at the stag hunt dilemma, individuals will take the route with the least risk when it comes to behaviour. However, you mentioned that society mostly has competition without cooperation. Before I can respond to that, may you please tell me where that is the case? Thank you.


  7. @blaiseappolinary8228 Thank you for your perspective. I think that competition may exist without cooperation in some cases, but that can only work so long in the short term. If the wider picture is looked at, in order for progression to occur, cooperation usually manifests itself (that is if exploitation does not). For example, in the sprinter’s case, there is competition between the athletes, but the system also encompasses the coaches and referees and the person who provides the medal. In order for the sprinter to win, he probably must have trained under guidance of someone (who is also rewarded for training the athlete) and the referees (or judge) and the person who gives the medal must acknowledge that the sprinter won and they essentially cooperate with the sprinter in solidifying their victory, since victory is only subjective according to the normative structures that are in place.


  8. @adhaliwal11 Thank you for the insight. I think that your interpretation of the paper is correct in this case in that they are correlated, but not entirely mutually causal of one another. I think that is what Molina does agree on, but I drew part of the causality into it because looking at the system as a whole, one can’t exist without the other. This begs the question as to how are they caused? And how are they perceived in relevance? It is almost like yin and yang, where only one situation is only “more” competitive than the other or vice versa. In order to claim something is competitive, you need to compare it to something that is not as competitive. That is not to say that competition does not exist in the less competitive scenario, but it is manifested in alternative ways in a system.


  9. @melaniechen9985 Really interesting insight actually. In the case where trust may not result in the largest benefit would be in larger cases that require extensive cooperation from everyone in order to achieve the big game. However, in this case, which is the “cooperate to hunt the stag” or “defect to hunt your own hare”, there is less risk in hunting the hare, leading for individuals to pursue the hare. It mostly comes down to risk and benefit. Individuals are more likely to cooperate to avoid a major loss or even compete to avoid a major loss. It accords to the situation given on which path is less risk adverse, even if the prize is not as great.


  10. @melaniechen9985 Thank you for your insight. I do agree that context is important. However, it depends on what the objective is and if the objective is even considered desirable according to normative structures. This means to maximize the course of action to the degree of fit with the objective in order to achieve the desirable objective. What can be classified as competitive behaviour is also dependent on the system as a whole. To compete with on actor usually requires cooperation with another in the same system. Some can say that students compete with one another, but that can only work if the students cooperate with the system or those who have more control. Usually, the more the students cooperate with an instructor or marker, the more likely they will agree to their standards of marking, thus doing better. It is a push/pull situation, where students may move away from revealing information from peers, but only to exchange information with the instructor. Thus, competition and cooperation may exist in the majority of situations and may slightly be causal of one another in some form, direct or indirect.


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