In conflict, th
e person or group thwarts, injures, or destroys the opponent in order to secure a goal or a reward. As competition becomes more personal, it shades into conflict the more disruptive, disjunctive social process.
Meaning of Competition:
Competition is the most fundamental form of social struggle. It is a natural result of the universal struggle for existence. It is based on the fact that all people can never satisfy all their desires. Competition takes place whenever there is an insufficient supply of things that human beings commonly desire. Whenever and wherever commodities which people want are available in a limited supply, there is competition.
1. Park and Burgess: “Competition is an interaction without social contact”.
2. Biesanr. “Competition is the striving of two or more persons for the same goal which is limited so that all cannot share.”
3. Horton and Hunt: “Competition is the struggle for possession of rewards which are limited in supply, goods, status, power, love – anything.”
4. Competition may also be defined as “the process of seeking to monopolise a reward by surpassing all rivals.”
Nature and Characteristics of Competition:
1. Scarcity as a condition of competition:
Wherever there are commonly desired goods and services, there is competition. In fact, 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 and affluence:
Competition may be found even in circumstances of abundance or affluence. In a time of full employment competition may take place for, the status of the top class. There is competition not only for food, shelter and other basic needs, but also for luxuries, power, name, fame, social position, mates and so on.
3. Competition is continuous:
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.
4. Competition is universal:
Modern civilised society is marked by the phenomenon of competition. Competition is covering almost all the areas of our social living. Business people compete for customers, lawyers for clients, doctors for patients, students for ranks or distinctions, athletes and sportsmen for trophies, political parties for power, young men and women for mates and so on. Still no society can be said to be exclusively competitive or cooperative.
5. Competition is dynamic:
It stimulates achievement and contributes to social change. It lifts the level of aspiration from lower level to a higher level. A college student who competes with others to get selected to the college cricket-team, after becoming successful may later struggle to get selected to the university cricket team, to the state team, to the national team and so on.
A Cause of Social Change. Competition is a cause of social change in that, it causes persons to adopt new forms of behaviour in order to attain desired ends. New forms of behaviour involve inventions and innovations which naturally bring about social change. It is an effect of social change also, because a changing society has more goals to open than a relatively static society.
7. Competition may be personal or impersonal:
Competition is normally directed towards a goal and not against any individual. Sometimes, 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. The individual may be vaguely aware of, but has no personal contact with other competitors.
8. Competition may be constructive or destructive:
Competitions may be healthy or unhealthy. If one of the two or more competitors tries to win only at the expense of the others, it is destructive. Sometimes, big industrialists or capitalists resort to such a kind of competition and make the small petty businessmen to become virtually bankrupt.
But constructive competition is mutually stimulating and helpful. It contributes to the welfare of all at large. For example, farmers may compete to raise the best crops, workers in a factory to maximise production, students in a college to get distinctions and so on.
9. Competition is always governed by norms:
Competition is not limitless nor is it unregulated. 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’.
10. Competition may be unconscious also:
Competition may take place on an unconscious level. Many times individuals who are engaged in competition may become oblivious of the fact that they are in a competitive race. Rarely do they know about other competitors.
Forms or Types of Competition:
Bernard mentions three broad types of competition: Social, Economic and Political competition.
People always compete to get into higher status and position. Competition of this kind is mostly observed in ‘open’ societies. Wherever individual ability, merit, talent and capacities are recognised, competition for status is acute. Democratic nations encourage such competitions.
The most important and at the same time the most vigorous form of competition is the economic competition. It is witnessed in the processes of production, distribution and consumption of goods. Men compete for jobs, customers, clients, patients, profits, wages, salaries, increments and promotions, money, wealth, property, etc. Man always struggles for higher standard of living. Economic competition can be observed at the individual as well as group level.
In the modern world competition for political power is always present. Political parties are always engaged in competition to secure power. Such a competition becomes apparent especially during elections.
Similarly, on the international level, there is a keen competition between nations. Nations like Russia and America which are wedded to different political ideologies, are always at a competition for one thing or the other.
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 natives and that of the invaders. Ex: competition that prevailed between the Sumerians and Akkadians, Aryans and Dravidians, the British and the Indians.
Competition may also take place between racial groups such as the Negroes and the Whites, religious groups such as the Protestants and the Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, Muslims and the Christians and so on.
Role of Competition in Social Life:
Competition plays an important role in our social life. Competition performs a number of useful functions in society. Some of them may be noted here. Social Functions of Competition
1. Assigns Statuses to the Individuals:
Competition assigns individuals their respective place in the social system. Social status and competition are always associated. Some people compete with others to retain their status; others compete to enhance their status.
2. Source of Motivation:
Competition is a source of motivation for the individuals. It makes the individual to show his ability and express the talents. It increases individual efficiency.
3. Provides for Social Mobility:
As far as the individual is concerned competition implies mobility and freedom. The spirit of competition helps the individual to improve his social status.
4. Competition Contributes to Socio-Economies Progress:
Fair competition is conducive to economic as well as social progress. It even contributes to general welfare because it spurs individuals and groups on to exert their best efforts. When the competition is directed to promote the general interests of the community as a whole, it can bring about miraculous results.
5. Provides for New Experiences:
As Ogburn and Nimkoff have pointed out, competition provides the individuals better opportunities to satisfy their desire for new experiences and recognition. As far as the group is concerned, competition means experimental charge.
G.R. Madan in his “The Theoretical Society” Vol. Ill mentions three major functions of competition. They are as follows:
(i) Competition serves to satisfy some desire of the competing individuals or groups,
(ii) Competition focuses attention on alternatives.
New inventions and discoveries; innovations in behaviour, variant philosophies, and systems of beliefs, etc., provide the rich menu from which may be satisfied the wants of the society,
(iii) The competition provides the mechanism by which well qualified and competent persons can be selected to perform special functions of the group. When there is free play of competition, it becomes easier to select men of ability from groups such as occupational, religious, artistic, recreational, reformist, political, economic, etc., to carry on special responsibilities.
Competition is beneficial only when it is constructive. It must function within limits. Uncontrolled competition is always dangerous. As Park and Burgess have pointed out unrestrained competition is neither desirable nor even possible.
Limitless and unhealthy competitions may even cause disorder in society. Hence, rules and regulations are framed everywhere to regulate and to channelise the competitive spirit of the individuals.