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Does competition destroy the incentive to work?

+1 vote
One characteristic of capitalism is competition.
I argue that competition slows human progression.
Others argue that competition progressess it.

Edited for grammer.
asked Jul 6, 2015 by Militant (460 points)
your opening question in combination with your further comments seem, to me anyway, to equate 'work' with 'progress.'  for me, both notions are not only highly ambiguous, but as they're commonly used, highly distasteful.
competition and collaboration are both parts of a life i find interesting.

i would never call that "human progression," nor am i interested in a perspective that speaks in such huge generalities ("humans" are very different from each other, and are also not the only, or even the most important, category).

capitalism is both collaborative and competitive also, so that wouldn't (? probably) be the metric that i would attack it from.
Another characteristic of capitalism is cooperation -- the kind based on class solidarity (most often seen among property owners rather than workers).

Characteristics are a good way to begin to analyze topics, but a few definitions might be even more helpful.

1 Answer

0 votes
I feel creating dichotomies like these can create more problems rather than lead us to any further knowledge. However, it is true that some strands of capitalism (the much loaded term neoliberalism) advocate the radical individualism that can be seen in some of the books of Ayn Rand, for example. And that extreme individualism, when put together with a fake sense of 'meritocracy', can lead to a fierce competition.

Competition can be positive, does anyone think than collaboration can be negative it itself? (obviously it can be negative in the sense that some can collaborate to annihilate others etc, but I mean collaboration itself). I am inclined to think that cooperation and collaboration can never be really harmful in broad terms!
answered Jul 7, 2015 by cyborg (330 points)

absolutely collaboration and cooperation can be harmful in themselves. arguably all the individualists are complaining about that very thing (among others). it seems many people fall into "getting along to get along", stop thinking for themselves, accept the assumptions and criteria of their group or their friends without interrogating them (interrogating the ideas, not the people--although interrogating people can be fun too ;) ), etc. (which is the point of the "annihilation of others" that you note).

so if you're defining collaboration and cooperation as always being between people who are well individuated, not afraid to be in conflict with each other, understand their differences as well as their similarities, then sure, it can be fun and productive. but no one is like that all the time and some people are almost never like that.

i find that there is a lot less trust involved in competition than there is in cooperation and collaboration. that alone leaves the latter open to more intricate situations of potential positive and negative experiences.

of course cooperation and collaboration can have negative and/or positive aspects and outcomes, depending on the situation and the folks involved. just as can competition.

claiming something (eg, collaboration) as positive or negative in and of itself holds no interest for me; only in the context of a situation can i determine if i consider something as having positive and/or negative results/impacts. and almost always will there be some of both, if i look at it in a holistic sense.

i also agree with amorfati's comment above. "human progress" is not something i see as inherently "positive" (that is putting it mildly - i mostly feel the opposite). work, in the sense related to capitalism in particular, is something i can pretty much never see as "positive", since i despise and try to avoid as much as possible the capitalism that infuses far too much of the world i inhabit.

I agree with you and do think that everything has their positive and negative sides, but I'd also say that I see some inherently positive values derived from cooperation (such as trust that you mention) that are always present if cooperation truly happens (of course that cooperation can foster other more negative values or be used for a harmful cause).
context is everything.

let's say i am building an outhouse. and let's say i have done it many times before, and i know exactly how to get it done quickly and to my satisfaction. now let's say there are others that want to collaborate with me on it.

collaborating with them could both slow me down, and introduce additional opinions on how it should be done, which in this case only serves to get in the way. so in that scenario, i would say collaboration negatively impacts my goal.

of course, it is possible that they want to learn from me, or that i want to learn from them. in which case, collaboration would positively impact our collective goals.