Cooperation and Competition: Not So Simple

The article by Molina et al. gives an introspective review and look at the underlying anthropological theories that contribute to the explanation of cooperation. It recognises the various different representations of cooperation that appear throughout the current literature field of social anthropology all in attempt to direct and inform further research in studying the aspects of competition and cooperation, not as opposites but as processes that coexist. In thinking forward, it will be important for future research to not only focus on cooperation and competition in the field of anthropology, but to also look at a range of other research fields. For example, psychology would be particularly helpful in studying human evolution and the ways in which it can contribute to the understanding of cooperation and competition. 

In their review of the literature on cooperation and competition, Moline et al. identify the concept of reciprocity, and the idea of mutualistic cooperation.  Instead of merely being a survival instinct, based on kin selection, cooperation is an intricate system relying on reciprocity and group selection as well. Much of what Moline et al. talks about is relevant to the psychological theory of how human brains developed, also known as the Social Brain Hypothesis.  In line with the idea of indirect reciprocity is the Social Brain Hypothesis, which indicates that as society and societal structures became more complex, so did the need to regulate those structures. Both the need for the individual to keep track of complex social systems, and co-exist within them, is how the Social Brain Hypothesis explains the increase in brain size.

What is most interesting about Molina et al.’s argument is that it is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, in describing the principle mechanisms for cooperation and competition. Carlin and Love also have some interesting ideas of their own in relating cooperation and trust. Social interaction is an essential part of the human condition, as humans are social creatures. They argue that social systems are a result of cooperation and competition, in the way that they allow individuals to cooperate in a regulated context, and provide a way of resolving social conflict. According to Carlin and Love, with regards to trust, social conflict can be resolved in economic systems. Although Carlin and Love are talking about competition in a political sense, their claims have validity in the scope of competition in an evolutional sense too. 

Grace’s comments about the author’s cooperation in writing and publishing the paper are a very apparent and real life example of cooperation. The cooperation of the author’s is a more subtle rhetoric aspect of the paper that adds validation to its claims. Probably the most important aspect of both these papers is the realization that cooperation and competition, though they can be defined simply enough, should not be over simplified. There are so many aspects that affect cooperation and competition that to limit the definitions, or not acknowledge other fields that seek to explain these terms, would not do them justice.

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