Competition is the most fundamental form of social struggle. According to Sutherland, Woodward and Maxwell “Competition is an impersonal, unconscious, continuous struggle between individuals or groups for satisfaction which, because of their limited supply, all may not have.” In the words of Biesanz “competition is the striving of two or more persons for the same goal which is limited so that all cannot share it.”
- Competition drives us to learn at a faster rate and perform at a higher level. When the event is coming up, we work harder and faster. When we are playing a game, we push a little harder. In doing so we often surprise ourselves with what we are capable of accomplishing.
- Competition teaches us to put forth our best effort. Keeping score gives us extra motivation to do our best. We pursue excellence when we compete.
- Competition teaches us to manage our nerves. When something is out of our comfort zone or pushes us to perform, we normally feel ‘butterflies’. Competition brings those butterflies out, so we can work on managing them. This is an important trait that we can use when taking exams, interviewing for jobs and giving presentations.
- Competition teaches us to take risks. Once we realize that competition is not a terrifying thing, we can take risks. We can develop our confidence to do things that are hard or uncomfortable.
- Competition teaches us to cope when things do not go our way. Sometimes you work hard, and you still lose. Sometimes you win but still didn’t perform as you wanted to. We learn resilience and grit in these moments. Resilience and grit are two traits that most certainly are essential to everyone’s success.
- Competition helps us with goal setting. While setting goals and making a plan to reach them can be done outside of competition, competition helps provide deadlines and progress checks on our goals.
- Competition helps us to learn to win and lose gracefully. Nobody likes a boastful person, and nobody likes are pouter. Competition gives us the opportunities to cope with feelings of pride and disappointment and to learn to process them in healthy ways.
- Competition can build self-esteem. Self-esteem cannot be handed to kids; they have to earn it. When you develop a talent and work hard for a result, it feels great. When you fail and learn that can bounce back, you feel more confident in yourself because you understand that you have resilience.
- Competition teaches commitment. There is a saying that goes, “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. That is why they are successful.” Building the habit of commitment is a wonderful by-product of being involved in competition.
- Competition causes kids to perform better in school. Research shows that high school students who play competitive sport are less likely to quit other activies. Furthermore, participation in sports also has been associated with completing more years of education and consistently higher grades in school. Not surprising that the discipline and goal setting that is learned in competitive sports helps in school.
Characteristics of Competition:
(i) Competition is impersonal struggle:
Park and Burgess have defined competition as “interaction without social contact.” It is, in other words, an inter-individual struggle that is impersonal. It is usually not directed against any individual or group in particular; the competitors are not in contact and do not know one another.
Competition is for the most part not personalised. When the individuals compete with each other, not on personal level but as members of groups, such as business, social or cultural organisations, tribes, nations, political parties etc. the competition is called impersonal.
(ii) Competition is an unconscious activity:
Competition takes place on the unconscious level. Students, for example, do not conceive of their classmates as competitors even though it is true that there are only a certain number of honours available and if certain members of the class get them, the honours are automatically denied to others.
Students may, no doubt, be conscious of the competition and much concerned about marks. It remains competition just so long as their attention is focussed on the reward or goals for which they are striving than on the competitor. When there is a shift in interest from the objects of competition to the competitors themselves, it is called rivalry or personal competition.
(iii) Competition is universal:
Competition is found in every society and in every age. It is found in every group. As the things people wish to secure are limited in supply, there is competition all-round to secure them.
To quote from the monograph prepared by May and Doob “On a social level, individuals compete with one another when: (i) they are striving to achieve the same goal that is scarce; (ii) they are prevented by the roles of the situation from achieving this goal in equal amounts; (iii) they perform better when the goal can be achieved in unequal terms; and (iv) they have relatively few psychologically affiliative contacts with one another.
Some thinkers are of the opinion that competition is an innate tendency. According to them, it is found among all the species. But as a matter of fact, competition is not an inborn tendency rather it is a social phenomenon.
It takes place only when the desired thing is in short supply. It differs in degree from society to society. Its degree is determined by social values and social structure. It is a culturally patterned process. No society allows it to operate in an unrestricted manner.
Competition can be seen at five levels: Economic, Cultural, Social, Political and Racial.
Value of Competition:
Competition, like co-operation, is indispensable in social life. It arises from the fact that individuals are capable of independent locomotion and have the capacity for gaining an individual experience as a result of independent action. Some sociologists are of the view that it is even more basic process than co-operation.
Hobbes had remarked that the struggle is the basic law of life and that earliest man lived in a continual state of warfare. Hume, Hegel, Rousseau and Bagehot also corroborated the views of Hobbes. Later on, the theory of the “survival of the fittest” which developed as a result of Darwin’s theory of evolution also stressed the importance of competition in society.
It was consequently asserted that if nature is dominated by conflict this must also be true of human nature and human society. But as Kropotkin has pointed out, it is not the competition alone but co-operation also which plays a major role in survival.
Competition performs many useful functions in society. It is extremely dynamic. According to H. T. Mazumdar, it performs five positive functions. First, it helps determine the status and location of individual members in a system of hierarchy, Second, it tends to stimulate economy, efficiency and invectiveness, third, it tends to enhance one’s ego- fourth, it prevents undue concentration of power in an individual or group of individuals, and fifth, it creates respect for the rules of the game.
(i) Assignment of individuals to proper places Firstly:
It assigns individuals to a place in the social system. Human community is fundamentally an arrangement under which individuals must perform functions which, while enabling them to exist, also make it possible for the community as a whole to conduct its affairs. Competition determines who is to perform what function.
The division of labour and the entire complex economic organisation in modern life are thus the products of competition. In the words of E. A. Ross, “competition performs the broad function of assigning to each individual his place in his social world”. Competition is a progressive force which fulfills and does not necessarily destroy. The stimulus of competition has played a considerable role in the technological and organisational innovation.
(ii) Source of motivation Secondly:
Competition furnishes motivation in the desire to excel or to obtain recognition or to win an award. It stimulates achievement by lifting the levels of aspiration, the individuals work harder if competing than if working on their own with no thought of rivalry.
In the words of Eldredge, “Competition between individuals and groups is largely towards the objective of preserving or improving their respective statuses rather than survival.” Researchers have shown that wherever competition is culturally encouraged, it usually increases productivity.
(iii) Conducive to progress:
Thirdly, fair competition is conducive to economic as well as social progress and even to general welfare because it spurs individuals and groups to exert their best efforts. It’s obvious connection with what is called progress has led some thinkers to regard it as the essential feature of modem Civilization.
Ogburn and Nimkoff observe that competition provides the individuals better opportunities to satisfy their desires for new experiences and recognition. It is the opposite of ascribed status. It believes in achieved status. Those who denounce it ask for fixity of status and thus pull back the forces of progress.
It may not, however, be presumed that competition is a pre-requisite to social progress. Mazumdar has mentioned its three negative functions. First, it may lead to neurosis through frustration; second, it may lead to monopoly, and third it may lead to conflicts. Competition can be vicious both for individuals and groups.