No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Competition as a mode of interaction

There is a widespread belief in the need for greater competition in various social and economic areas. This belief extends from schools to businesses, to healthcare and pensions. The idea is that competition can solve problems and increase the competitiveness of institutions and individuals.

The transition from traditional to modern societies was strongly influenced by the introduction of competitive structures. In modern societies, resources and positions are no longer merely traditionally allocated, but increasingly distributed on the basis of individual performance. This transition extends across different areas of life, from business to science, to sports and the arts.

Competition not only has economic consequences, but also influences the entire structure and institutional formation of modern societies. In today's late modern society, competition is seen as a claim for totality that permeates all areas of life and transcends national boundaries. The idea that competition will have to become even fiercer in the future is widespread and linked to the concept of globalization.

The competitive organization of social life leads to a great overproduction of social energy and creative ideas, which, however, also means waste. Unlike direct conflict, the energy of the losers in competition is not necessarily socially wasted, but can be reused in other areas. This waste does not necessarily lead to lower levels of social energy, but may even lead to a more dynamic social order. The principle of competition creates incentives to improve performance and promote innovation, as better performance must be continuously sought. Moreover, competition neutralizes external ethical, aesthetic or moral considerations and ensures efficient functioning in various fields such as science, business, art and politics.

The development of modern society shows that competition has led to an increase in efficiency in various areas. This affects business, science, politics and even art and lifestyle. Competition enables quick and efficient responses to social needs. It promotes performance and innovation, but also leads to civilized performance because people have to adapt in a competitive environment.
Democratic party competition enables rapid responses to social needs. Cultural and technical achievements, as well as lifestyles, have diversified and improved through competition. Competition also promotes ethical values such as kindness and motivation. It enables fair distribution based on performance, but can also increase social inequality.

Although competition is efficient in many areas, it also has limits. It can hinder the production of public goods and increase social inequality. Competitive pressure often leads to growth and acceleration becoming an end in itself, which can undermine social objectives.

The independence of the competition principle leads to forced opportunism for individual and collective value realization. It doesn't matter what is produced or researched, as long as it increases competitiveness. This leads to the difficulty of distinguishing between performance and success, as competition itself becomes the primary measure of performance. These competitive pressures extend to all areas of life, require opportunistic strategies and mean that individual appreciation and recognition are increasingly dependent on competitive success.

In late modern societies, social esteem is strongly linked to individual performance and competitiveness. This leads to subjects having to continually secure their position in the social structure through success in various areas such as education, work, family, and other peripheral social areas. Recognition in competition is no longer permanent, but must be continuously earned through performance. The experience of disrespect is no longer seen as part of an unjust social order, but rather as a personal failure to compete. Subjects increasingly identify with their market value and see their social success as the result of their own performance.

Competition not only penetrates the working world, but also people's personal life goals and decisions. As a result, individuals' self-development is increasingly determined by the demands of competition. Success is associated with flexibility, achievement and constant change, while divergent life concepts receive less recognition and even social exclusion. The dominance of competition as a model of interaction means that individuals in all areas of life are forced to continually assert themselves and increase their competitiveness. As a result, alternative life concepts and goals are given less space and can even be experienced as a nuisance.

The competitive organization of society not only influences individual life chances, but also shapes social values and relationships. This development is viewed critically because it leads to a limitation of diversity and individuality and in the longer term can contribute to social problems and irrationalities. Rethinking the competitive organization of society and considering alternative forms of social organization is useful to curb the negative effects of the competitive model and promote the diversity of individual lifestyles.


Rosa, H. (2006), Wettbewerb als Interaktionsmodus: Kulturelle und sozialstrukturelle Konsequenzen der Konkurrenzgesellschaft, in: Leviathan, Vol. 34, No. 1 (März 2006), pp. 82-104.