The Phenomenon of Competition: General and Contemporary Perspectives



This chapter aims to examine competition as a contemporary phenomenon in Western everyday life and as a component in human existence. After having discussed whether competition is a natural phenomenon, three questions lead the way. First: What are the presuppositions of competition? Topics dealt with here are self-interest, human individuality and freedom, the herd instinct and the need to compare oneself with others, inequality and equality, scarcity, and rules. Second: What are the characteristics of the unfolding of competition? On the positive, individual side, the issues are competition’s intrinsic value, competition and mastering and competition and motivation; on the negative side are questions of aggression, hostility, anxiety, and danger and risk. Collectively, competition oscillates between aggression and respect for persons. Fellowship among rivals in a competitive context and competition and entertainment are also dealt with. Third: What are the consequences of competition? To many humans competition equals success, but this correlation is not confirmed by empirical research. In many contexts competition is negatively correlated to performance. In other contexts, however, there is a positive correlation, for example, in sport and the economy. In cultures where there is an affinity toward working in groups, collaboration and performance are also linked positively. The focus is on what can serve everyone, not only the individual. This positive collaborative perspective, however, appears less attractive in an individualistic and self-interested context. Other consequences dealt with in this chapter are questions of competition and power, competition and personal relationships, the consequences of a competitive praxis to health, and how competition influences society in a more overarching way.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

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