Competition is the act of striving against another force for the purpose of achieving dominance or attaining a reward or goal, or out of a biological imperative such as survival. Competition is a term widely used in several fields, including biochemistry, ecology, economics, business, politics, and sports. Competition may be between two or more forces, life forms, agents, systems, individuals, or groups, depending on the context in which the term is used.

Competition may yield various results to the participants, including both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Some, such as survival advantages, including favorable territory, are intrinsic biological factors that occur as a result of ecological competition between organisms. Others, such as business dominance and political power, involve competition between humans. In addition, extrinsic symbols, such as trophies, plaques, ribbons, prizes, or laudations, may be given to the winner(s). Such symbolic rewards are commonly used wherever the rewards inherent in the competition are primarily intrinsic, such as at human sporting and academic competitions. In general, the rewards range widely but usually help reinforce the advantage that one participant has over the other participant(s).


Different Sizes and Levels of Competition

Competition may also exist at different sizes; some competitions may be between two members of a species, while other competitions can involve entire species. In an example in economics, a competition between two local stores would be considered small compared to competition between several mega-giants. As a result, the consequences of the competition would also vary- the larger the competition, the larger the effect.

In addition, the level of competition can also vary. At some levels, competition can be informal and be more for pride or fun. However, other competitions can be extreme and bitter; for example, some human wars have erupted because of the intense competition between two nations or nationalities.

Consequences of Competition

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Competition can result in both beneficial and detrimental results. For example, inter-species competition, including between humans, is the driving force of adaptation and ultimately, evolution. Social darwinists claim that competition also serves as a mechanism for determining the best-suited group, politically, economically, and ecologically, however this belief if very questionable.

However, competition can also have negative consequences, particularly on the human species. Potential detrimental effects include the injury of other organisms and the drain of valuable resources and energy for competition. In addition, human competition may also require large amounts of money (such as in political elections, international sports competitions, and advertising wars) and can also lead to the compromising of ethical standards in order to gain an advantage in the competition. For example, several athletes have been caught using banned steroids in professional sports in order to boost their own chances of success or victory. Finally, competitive striving can also be harmful for the participants. Examples include athletes that injure themselves because they excede the physical tolerances of their bodies, and companies that pursue unprofitable paths while engaging in competitive rivalries.

Competition in Different Fields

Economics and Business Competition

Seen as a pillar of capitalism in that it may stimulate innovation, encourage efficiency, or drive down prices, competition is touted as the foundation upon which capitalism is justified. According to microeconomic theory, no system of resource allocation is more efficient than pure competition. Competition, according to the theory, causes commercial firms to develop new products, services, and technologies. This gives consumers greater selection and better products. The greater selection typically causes lower prices for the products compared to what the price would be if there was no competition (monopoly) or little competition (oligopoly).

However, competition may also lead to wasted (duplicated) effort and to increased costs (and prices) in some circumstances. Similarly, the psychological effects of competition may result in harm as well as good.

Three levels of economic competition have been classified. The most narrow form is direct competition (also called category competition or brand competition), where products that perform the same function compete against each other. For example, a brand of pick-up trucks competes with several different brands of pick-up trucks. The next form is substitute competition, where products that are close substitutes for one another compete. For example, butter competes with margarine, mayonnaise, and other various sauces and spreads. The broadest form of competition is typically called budget competition. Included in this category is anything that the consumer might want to spend their available money on. For example, a family that has $20,000 available may choose to spend it on many different items, which can all be seen as competing with each other for the family's available money.

Competition does not necessarily have to be between companies. For example, business writers sometimes refer to "internal competition". This is competition within companies. The idea was first introduced by Alfred Sloan at General Motors in the 1920s. Sloan deliberately created areas of overlap between divisions of the company so that each division would be competing with the other divisions. For example, the Chevy division would compete with the Pontiac division for some market segments. Also, in 1931, Proctor and Gamble initiated a deliberate system of internal brand versus brand rivalry. The company was organized around different brands, with each brand allocated resources, including a dedicated group of employees willing to champion the brand. Each brand manager was given responsibility for the success or failure of the brand and was compensated accordingly. This form of competition thus pitted a brand against another brand. Finally, most businesses also encourage competition between individual employees. An example of this is a contest between sales representatives. The sales representative with the highest sales (or the best improvement in sales) over the a period of time would gain benefits from the employer.

It should also be noted that business and economical competition in most countries is often limited or restricted. Competition often is subject to legal restrictions, which usually provide for fair and equal business competition. Such laws may include the banning of monopolies and price gouging. Depending on the respective economic policy, the pure competition is to a greater or lesser extent regulated by competition policy and competition law.

Competition in Biology and Ecology

Competition is also present in biology, and more specifically, ecology. Competition between members of a species is the driving force of evolution and natural selection- the competition for resources, such as food, water, territory, and sunlight, results in the ultimate survival and dominance of the variation of the species best suited for survival. According the the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, this inter-species competition results in the organisms best suited for survival producing the most offspring. As a result, the species would evolve over time and adapt to the environment in which the organisms lived.

Competition is also present between species. First, a limited amount of resources are available, and several species may depend on these resources. Thus, each of the species competes with the others to gain the resources. As a result, several species less suited to compete for the resources may either adapt or die out. In addition, competition is also prominent in predator-prey relationships. Both the predator and prey are competing against one another for survival; the predator is seeking food, and the prey is seeking to survive.

Competition in Politics

Competition is also found in politics. In democracies, an election is a competition for an elected office. In other words, two or more candidates strive and compete against one another to attain a position of power. The winner gains the seat of the elected office for a set amount of time, when another election is usually held to determine the next holder of the office.

In addition, there is inevitable competition inside a government. Because several offices are appointed, potential candidates compete against the others in order to gain the particular office. Departments may also compete for a limited amount of resources, such as for funding. Finally, where there are party systems, elected leaders of different parties will ultimately compete against the other party for laws, funding, and power.

Finally, competition is also imminent between governments. Each country or nationality struggles for world dominance, power, or military strength. For example, the United States competed against the Soviet Union in the Cold War for world power, and the two also struggled over the different types of government (in this case, representative democracy and communism). The result of this type of competition often leads to worldwide tensions and may sometimes erupt into warfare.

Sports Competition

While some sports, such as fishing and swimming, have been viewed as primarily recreational, most sports are considered competitive. The majority involve the competition between two or more persons or things. For example, in a game of basketball, two teams compete against one another to determine who can score the most points. While there is no set reward for the winning team, many players gain an internal sense of pride. In addition, extrinsic rewards may also be given. Athletes, besides competing against other humans, also compete against nature in sports such as kayaking or mountain climbing, where the goal is to reach a destination, with only natural barriers impeding the process.

While professional sports have been usually viewed as intense and extremely competitive, recreational sports, which are often less intense, are considered a healthy option for the competitive urges in humans. Sport provides a relatively safe venue for converting unbridled competition into harmless competition, because sports competition is not unrestrained. On the contrary, the competitions are governed by codified rules ageed upon by the participants. Violating these rules is considered to be unfair competition. Sports, in addition, is also considered artificial and not natural competition; for example, competing for control of a ball or defending territory on a playing field is not an innate biologal factor in humans. Athletes in sports like gymnastics and competitive diving actually compete against a conceptual ideal of a perfect performance, which incorporates measurable criteria and standards that are translated into numerical ratings and scores.

Sports competition is generally broken down into three categories: individual sports, such as archery, dual sports, such as doubles tennis, or team sports competition, such as soccer. While most sports competitions are recreation, there exists several major and minor professional sports leagues throughout the world, and the Olympic Games, held every four years, is a pinnacle of sports competition.

The Study of Competition

Competition has been studied in several fields, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Social psychologists, for instance, study the nature of competition. They investigate the natural urge of competition and its circumstances. They also study group dynamics to detect how competition emerges and what its effects are. Sociologists, meanwhile, study the effects of competition on society as a whole. In addition, anthropologists study the history and prehistory of competition in various cultures. They also investigate how competition manifested itself in various cultural settings in the past, and how competition has developed over time.

Considerations in philosophy

Most philosophers have paid attention to competition only indirectly by acknowledging its existence in society or by identifying its advantages and disadvantages in political or economic arrangements, without analyzing the essential nature of competition as well as its ethical ramfications. The philosopher Michael E. Berumen devoted considerable attention to the subject in his book, Do No Evil: Ethics with Applications to Economic Theory and Business. While some thinkers have viewed competition as being inherently at odds with cooperation or in a largely negative light, Berumen maintains that the two are often intertwined; for example, any number of competitive activities might require cooperation in following the rules, accepting judgments of impartial observers, and settling on rewards. Competition, Berumen asserts, is also one means of allocating finite resources, whether in business or in purchasing tickets to the theater. The key to analzying the morality of competition is to understand who benefits and suffers as a result and whether the suffering can be justified using various normative criteria- for example, a voluntary agreement, universal prescriptions, or societal norms.


Many philosophers and psychologists have identified a trait in most living organisms that drive the particular organism to compete. This trait, called competitiveness, is viewed as an innate biological trait that coexists along with the urge for survival. Competitiveness, or the inclination to compete, though, has become synonymous with aggressiveness and ambitiousness in the English language.

See also

de:Wettbewerb es:Competición fr:Concurrence gl:Competición nl:Mededinging ja:競技 sv:Konkurrens zh:竞争


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