Structure, Demonstrated: Bateson and Hutcheon on Competition

Considering the extensive discussion arising from the classroom discourse setting, one would expect to have exhausted the topic of Bateson’s and Hutcheon’s articles on cooperation vs. competition. However, simply shifting perspective from content to structure can reveal masses of meaning behind the composition of each paper.

When observing the types of evidence used to support each of the arguments, I noticed something new yet again. Bateson argues that cooperation wins over competition, in most circumstances. This claim is supported through examples from a wide scope of disciplines, including physiology, biology, religion, evolution and human development. She references Gregory Bateson’s “description of a hand, not as five fingers seen as separate items attached to a palm, but as four relationships…” By encouraging the audience to see a hand as a set of relationships, as opposed to individual digits, Bateson draws the same conclusion about academic competition through the use of various disciplines which appeal to her entire audience. She proves the importance of relationships in academia and greater social interaction through her content, as well as her speech’s structure that ties together seemingly unrelated topics. For example, biology does not exist without evolution, and human development does not exist without the restriction of physiology and influence of religion/spirituality. Thus, by making connections between a singular argument and many disciplines, Bateson is structurally proving to her audience that cooperation is necessary and helpful. She does not simply instruct the audience to focus on cooperation, she literally structures her speech to include glints of interactive cooperation between people in the audience.

On the other hand, Hutcheon seems to approach this in a more traditionally academic way, through reputable examples and people. In arguing that academics needs to shift from competitive to integrative, she references Jane Tompkins and Greek language–both highly regarded sources–in an attempt to show her audience that historical accounts have shaped academics to be a male-dominated, combative atmosphere. It seems that her approach gives more of a background of where the issue stems from, through an authoritative information transfer, as opposed to Bateson’s literally demonstrating a cooperative approach to learning by speaking in a crucially inclusive yet credible manner.

In comparing these two structures, both argue in drastically different ways for the importance of cooperation over competition. As estu6128 elegantly put it, “Like a dance between two partners, there’s a reciprocation process between the two beneficiaries. An argument is made not to eliminate an opposition (like a war), but rather to contribute to the debate.” One can learn much more by listening to others’ opinions and contributing respectful thought than from shooting down differing ideas.

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