Competition and Cooperation


Rhetorically, by analogy, and metaphorically, the notion of what is and should be “business” has taken on an uncommonly prominent place in the discourse of everyday life. In our society, business is the “marketplace.” And, it is defended in the name of “individualism,” which is rough and ready for what Americans consider advances both personal and collective values: individual achievement and social progress. Thus, the marketplace allows us to eat our cake and have it too. Competition, it is argued, promotes both the ends of individuals and the ends of society. Instead, I contend that the valorization of individualism has undermined democracy and equality, and the rhetoric blinds us to the fact that the big players do not live by the rules of competition. It is my point in this chapter that cooperation pervades economic life just as it does social life. There is no reason to be squeamish about it. Drawing from a point that Amitai Etzioni makes, in contemporary, developed countries, competition does not do well in impersonal, calculative systems of independent actors unbounded by social relations but instead requires social bonds that are strong enough to sustain mutual trust.1


Social Life Social Role Social Contract Economic Life Mapping Rule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    The Moral Dimension: Towards a New Economics. New York: Free Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Andrew L. Shapiro, We’re Number One. New York: Vintage, 1992.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Stuart Bruchey, Enterprise. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 343.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mark S. Mizruchi, The Structure of Corporate Political Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For example, see Martin Mayer, The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery. New York: Macmillan, 1990.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Edmund E. Byrne, Work, Inc. Phildelphia: Temple University Press, 1990, p. 61.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Michael Useem discusses the ways in which members of major corporations have issues that transcend the interests of their own companies. See The Inner Circle: Large Corporations and the Rise of Political Activity in the U.S. and U.K. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Bronislaw Malinowski, Freedom and Civilization. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1944.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press, [1944] 1957, p. 49.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Émile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society. New York: Free Press, [1893] 1933.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Walter W. Powell’s discussion of network forms of organization is useful here. See “Neither Market nor Hierarchy,” Research in Organizational Behavior 12: 295–336.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    See Charles Lindblom, Politics and Markets: The World’s Political Economic Systems. New York: Basic Books, 1977.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    See Ernest Gellner, Plough, Sword, and Book. London: Collins Harvill, 1988.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Durkheim, op. cit.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    A form of interdependence in markets is that sellers hope that other sellers will agree to keep the prices up. It is on this point that rational-choice theorists contend that the extensiveness of members’ dependence on one another has no implications for group solidarity (Michael Hechter, Principles of Group Solidarity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987, p. 49). This is a correct conclusion for market behavior but such cooperation works against buyers’ interests and is inefficient.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    John W. Shaffer, Family and Farm: Agrarian Change and Household Organization in the Loire Valley, 1500–1900. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    P. K. Misra, “The Gadulia Lohars—Nomadism and Economic Activities,” pp. 235–246 in Lawrence Saadia Leshnik and Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer (eds.), Pastoralists and Nomads in South Asia. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1975.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Cyril S. Belshaw, Traditional Exchange and Modern Markets. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Piotr Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. London: Heinemann, 1910. He was arguing against Darwin, but similar charges can be levied against the assumptions of contemporary theory that places individual survival first over that of society. Central in libertarian thinking is the idea of entitlement rights so that the individual’s rights and property are in the first instance always protected (see Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974). The denial of social good is also evident in economic theory. In Studies in the Quantitative Theory of Money (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956), Milton Friedman argues that individual incentive is to do better than the average, and the implication is that any intervention that undermines individual incentives spells economic disaster.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Eviatar Zerubavel, Hidden Rhythms: Schedules and Calendars in Social Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  22. 24.
    For example, Arthur Francis, New Technology at Work. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  23. 25.
    Diana Crane, Invisible Colleges: Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific Communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972. Also see Judith R. Blau, “Sociometric Structure of a Scientific Discipline,” pp. 191–206 in Robert Alun Jones (ed.), Research in Sociology of Knowledge, Sciences and Art. Vol. 1. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  24. 26.
    Durkheim, op. cit.Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    See Rose Coser, “The Complexity of Roles as a Seedbed of Individual Autonomy,” pp. 237–263 in Lewis A. Coser (ed.), The Idea of Social Structure: Essays in the Honor of Robert K. Merton. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    James S. Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 119.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    Oliver E. Williamson, Markets and Hierarchies. New York: Free Press, 1975.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1993

Personalised recommendations