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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 20, 2001
Latest update: March 20, 2001
E-Mailjeannecurran@habermas.org

Can We Live Without Competition?
A Discussion Question

On Wednesday, March 21, 2001, Susan Soriano wrote:

Dear Jeanne,

I was reading Fellman’s take on the Adversarialism and Mutuality paradigm. From what I gathered, adversarialism is: violent attacks either physical or verbal, against other people in order to satisfy the need for control, superiority and domination over others.

jeanne's comments:

I don't think Fellman would include the adjective "violent." Adversarialism involves seeing the Other as some against whom we compete, rather than as someone on our team.

Mutuality, on the other hand is: being acceptant of the “melting pot” in which we live, learning from unique qualities others possess, and being able to apply them to life in order to live more harmoniously.
jeanne's comments:

I think you're reading a little more into mutuality than Fellman describes. Mutuality seems to me to be the paradigm which guides us to work as a team, for shared goals and shared success, rather than for an individual win. I think that would lead us to be accepting of the "melting pot," to learn from uniquesness, and to apply our learning to more harmonious living. But I think that's a lot to lay on the term "mutuality."

After reading Fellman’s , “The Urge to Kill”, and the chapter of “Revenge”,
jeanne's comments:

I presume you're referring to Chapter 7 of Rambo and the Dalai Lama, pp. 69-87.

it just made me start thinking about the Santee shooting all over again. The young boy who shot his fellow students justifies his acts because he was hurt by their crass remarks and teasing. Fellman says that revenge occurs when one person hurts another person, and the one who was hurt seeks to displace that hurt,
jeanne's comments:

Reference to a page would permit us to find the section you're referring to.

and obviously this boy was hurting. Fellman uses the film, Boys in the Hood (which by the way is an excellent film) as a good example of how revenge plays out. In that movie revenge seemed to be a vicious cycle. One person killed another person’s brother, therefore the brother has to go out and kill that guy, and of course someone else is going to harm that person because he harmed the other one…etc..etc. A vicious cycle that doesn’t stop because of the need to be in control, to feel superior, and dominate others. I cannot believe Capitalism thrives on this! What’s worse is that the majority of the world’s population have that natural tendency to want to seek out revenge.
jeanne's comments:

Now, wait a minute, Susan. If the majority of the world's population seeks revenge, why should capitalism be different? Why do you think that our economic and political system would keep us from the adversarialism so typical of the rest of the world?

Jeanne, why do we feel the need to have to be better than others?
jeanne's comments:

Maybe because we haven't resolved any better than anyone else in the world how to ease the tension between individual and social group needs.

What long-term benefits can we accomplish from competition?
jeanne's comments:

Competition can be a motivator. So can avoiding punishment. See Shane's comments on the positive effects of structural violence.

I mean look at our country. We boast that we are the best in the world, correct? And yet we’re in debt, and whom do we owe this money to? Ourselves. Why? Because we have to be better than the Soviet Union, better than Japan and China. Our country has to have the best bombs, guns, and killing machines. What is that all about?

So, my question to you would be: personally, do you think we really need competition and would it really be possible to live without it?

jeanne's comments:

Perhaps I learned from Fellman that we need not live "without competition." We need to balance the competitive need with a strong sense of the fair distribution of the world's resources. That means that, like Rawls, I believe that justice is fairness. But don't forget Nozick disagrees with me.

Susan Soriano
Theories