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The Phenomenon of Competition: Social Anthropological Perspectives

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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to present the occurrence and presuppositions of both higher and lower levels of competition in various societies and to provide the anthropological factors that accompany such occurrences. The presentation draws on knowledge from social anthropology. First, collaboration and competition are considered. In most countries and cultures, competition is dominant over collaboration and is gaining new ground, mainly due to prevailing economic competition. There are, however, exceptions. Second, history and competition are considered. A linear (planning and goal), more than a cyclical (reiteration), understanding of time promotes competition. Third, the structure of society and competition is discussed. The materialistic and non-materialistic values here are of importance to structuring, as well as having importance when seen in their relation to the quantitative and qualitative, the dynamic and the static. Fourth, consideration is given to economic systems and competition. Various societies distribute resources and goods in one of three main ways: marked exchange, gift exchange, and redistribution. Elements of all three are present in very different cultural and social contexts. Fifth, equality, inequality, and competition are appraised. Is there a natural egalitarian tendency, a development from egalitarian to less egalitarian societies, a link between equality/inequality and power? Each of these problems is linked to the question of competition. Sixth, consideration is given to the individual, the group, and competition. Competition takes place between individuals and groups, and within groups, but a different balance between the individual and the collective imply different competitive and collaborative priorities. Seventh, self-confidence, status, and competition are discussed. Self-confidence and strong ego-development are present both in competitive and collaborative contexts. In a special way achieved status is related to competition, but ascribed status less.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and SocietyOsloNorway

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