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Problematizing and untangling the concept of ‘competition’

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
31st August 2013


Via

From Chapter 11 of Creating Good Work,

Theme: going beyond the ‘culture of contest’, from competition to cooperation:

“The “culture of contest” that results from this is becoming increasingly maladaptive in an age of ever-increasing social and ecological interdependence. These maladaptive consequences can be seen in the growing disparities of wealth and poverty within and between most nation-states, and in the social conflict and instability that results. These consequences can also be seen in the mounting ecological crises that stem from a global race to liquidate the earth’s ecological capital in the name of self-interested, short-term, material acquisition. And collaboration and alienationfinally, these consequences can be seen in the growing epidemic of alienation, depression, and anomy that characterize the most competitive societies today.

In order to move beyond the prevailing culture of contest and create a more just and sustainable social order, we need to critically reexamine the concept of competition itself. Competition, as the term is widely used today, tends to conflate two distinct sets of ideas that need to be disentangled. When people use the word “competition,” they are often referring, simultaneously, to (a) the pursuit of excellence, innovation, and the establishment and productivity within a market system; and (b) the self-interested pursuit of mutually exclusive gains, with resultant winners and losers…

Once we disaggregate conventional notions of competition in this way, we can see that the most valuable aspects of “competition”- the pursuit of excellence, innovation, and productivity-are not contingent on self-interested behaviors, and they need not result in winners or losers. On the contrary, they assume their most mature form within a framework of cooperation and mutual gains-or a framework of collaboration.”

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