“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition ends.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Cooperation is working together towards the same outcome. On the other hand, competition is when people (individually or in groups) strive to increase their outcome, by defeating the other party. Having said that, do they co-exist?
J.L. Molina’s article on Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology explores the mechanism for the evolution of cooperation and tweaks the statement, cooperation is a response to competition. One of the examples pointed out in the article is the prestige economy in tribal societies. In this society, hierarchy and competition for prestige are crucial. In spite of that, the extent of competition within the society does not compromise trust, and in a way includes cooperation. For instance, tribes have competitive ceremonies where the winners distribute gifts, to their enemies as well. Although the gifts are of no use to the giver, they are valuable to the receiver; it improves another’s social prestige.
Rewinding to our first reading task by M.J. Bateson on The Myths of Independence and Competition, which supports the practice of cooperation instead of competition. The key word here is ‘instead’. From the statement itself, both Molina and Bateson are supporting the concept of cooperation and its benefits. However, Bateson does not comment on the relationship between cooperation and competition; she distinguishes them separately. She believes that cooperation is essential for our survival and that from the day we were born, we have been dependent on something or the other. Similar to Molina’s article, she points out the shift from cooperation to competition due to evolution. One of Bateson’s example that I found most intriguing is the concept of endosymbiosis, a mutually beneficial process that initiated the evolution of the nucleus. In a way, this is an analogy that life is formed through cooperation and due to evolution and survival traits, competition is initiated.
Similar to Jaren, I also like the fact that Molina’s article flowed on a historical order and goes about how cooperation and competition in the past evolved to the understanding of it today. Jaren also brings up the concept of “participatory constraint” and how individuals will participate if it benefits their status.
In terms of the structure of the written works, Molina’s article was written chronologically and is well organised- with subheadings. She speaks from an anthropological point of view in an informative manner- providing studies and examples after every main statement. On the other hand, Bateson’s commentary (which was a speech) is more subjective. As discussed in class, her writing mannerism is like she is talking to her audiences, who are presumed to be people who specialise in Behavioural Science.
To an extent, I do agree that cooperation and competition can co-exist. I believe that competition is inevitable and cooperation is not. In order to survive, we do need to cooperate and work together, or there will never be peace. But, competition is what drives us.
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