No Contest: The Case Against Competition

No Contest: The Case Against Competition

Alfie Kohn

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0395631254

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

No Contest stands as the definitive critique of competition. Contrary to accepted wisdom, competition is not basic to human nature; it poisons our relationships and holds us back from doing our best. In this new edition, Alfie Kohn argues that the race to win turns all of us into losers.












Institute of Technology were disciplined for “cheating,” mostly for working in small groups to write computer programs together for fear of being unable to keep up with the class otherwise. “Many feel that the required work is clearly impossible to do by straightforward [i.e., solitary] means,” according to the faculty member who chairs MIT’s Committee on Discipline.17 Each of these examples invites us to shift our gaze from maladjusted individuals to a maladaptive system. The problem is that it

pp. 221–24. 17. Ellis, p. 140. 18. Günther Lüschen, “The Interdependence of Sport and Culture,” p. 127. 19. Edwards, pp. 47–48. 20. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety, p. 182. 21. Sadler, p. 169. 22. Reagan is quoted by Brenda Jo Bredemeier and David L. Shields, “Values and Violence in Sports Today,” p. 23. 23. Gai Ingham Berlage, “Are Children’s Competitive Team Sports Socializing Agents for Corporate America?” pp. 313–14, 331. 24. “Sport is a primary vehicle through

Harvey L. Competing. New York: Pinnacle Books, 1981. Rubin, Lillian B. Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives. New York: Harper & Row, 1985. Rubinstein, Ruth P. “Changes in Self-Esteem and Anxiety in Competitive and Noncompetitive Camps .” Journal of Social Psychology 102 (1977): 55–57 Russell, Bertrand. The Conquest of Happiness. New York: Horace Liveright, 1930. ——. Why I Am Not a Christian. New York: Touchstone, 1957. Rutherford, Eldred, and Paul Mussen. “Generosity in Nursery

resist seeing our own behavior as unhealthy. [back] *** * The reverse of this proposition—that the less a person competes, the healthier he must be—does not follow, however. This is because competitiveness is not the only manifestation of low self-esteem. Many people, in fact, avoid competition because of their sense of inadequacy. In light of the psychological reversals spoken of earlier, this is not inconsistent with the fact that others embrace competition for the same reason. And thus it

question of sports. Even Lorenz told an interviewer in 1974 that he had developed “strong doubts whether watching aggressive behavior even in the guise of sport has any cathartic effect at all.”37 And the well-known psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim conceded that “competitive or spectator sports . . . raise aggressive feelings of competition to the boiling point.”38 Watching others be aggressive does not discharge our own aggressiveness. What seems to happen instead is straightforward modeling: We

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