Competition Sociology Notes

Just as cooperation exists as a universal form of social interaction, so is competition found in all societies. Competition grows out of the fact that human needs and desires appears to be insatiable and the goods, prestige, and perquisites that are the rewards for successful competition always are in short supply. People everywhere compete for dwelling space, for mates, for elaborate clothing and other bodily ornaments, and for wealth whether defined in terms of land, animals, money or even cockle shells.

Although all societies acknowledge and support the value of competition in some areas of life, they differ in the relative emphasis that they place on competition and cooperation, cooperation and competition always exist as reciprocal aspects of the same general experience. European capitalist society, generally, has accepted the view that the collective interest further by individual and group competition spurs people on to accomplish more than can be managed under other circumstances. This stands in marked contrast to the beliefs of some other societies; to that of the Zuni Indians of the American South west. The Zunis discouraged the accumulation of wealth and they minimize status differences among themselves.

They also regard overt competitiveness as a matter of taste in their children. There is some justification for this reaction to competition. Competition, however, is an ideal type. An ideal type is a form of concept that is constructed by taking one or more characteristics of a phenomenon and accentuating those characteristics to their logical maximum or reducing them to their logical minimum. The type thus constructed does not represent reality because the very process of its construction involves exaggeration. Ideal types, nevertheless, are very useful as logical standards by which reality can be measured. This often is done by making a pair of ideal types and letting them represent the ends of a continuum or scale. Because the ends of the scale are defined in terms of logical extremes, no existing case falls at either end of the continuum, but all cases may be ranged somewhere along the continuum between the two end points.

Nature and characteristics of Competition

1. Scarcity as a condition of competition: Wherever there are commonly desired goods and services, there is competition. Infact economics starts with its fundamental proposition that while human wants are unlimited the resources that can satisfy these wants are strictly limited. Hence people compete for the possession of these limited resources. As Hamilton has pointed out competition is necessitated by a population of insatiable wants and a world of stubborn and inadequate resources.

2. Competition is continuous: it is found virtually in every area of social activity and social interaction- particularly, competition for status, wealth and fame is always present in almost all societies.

3. Competition is a cause of social change: Competition is a cause of social change in that; it causes persons to adopt new forms of behavior in order to attain desired ends. New forms of behavior involve inventions and innovations which naturally bring about social change.

4. Competition may be personal or impersonal: Competition is normally directed towards a goal and not against any individual. Some times, it takes place without the actual knowledge of other's existence. It is impersonal as in the case of civil service examination in which the contestants are not even aware of one another's identity. Competition may also be personal as when two individuals contest for election to an office. As competition becomes more personal it leads to rivalry and shades into conflict. Competition in the social world is largely impersonal.

5. Competition is always governed by norms: Competition is not limitless nor is it un- regulated. There is no such thing as unrestricted competition. Such a phrase is contradiction in terms. Moral norms or legal rules always govern and control competition. Competitors are expected to use fair tactics and not cut throat devices.

Some sociologists have also spoken of cultural competition. It may take place between two or more cultural groups. Human history provides examples of such a competition for example; there has always been a keen competition between the culture of the native and that of the invaders. Like cooperation, competition occurs at personal, group, and organizational levels. People competing for affection, a promotion, or public office all are examples of personal competition. The competitors are likely to know one another and to regard others defeat as essential to the attainment of their own goals.