The culture of competition in modern liberal societies

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Abstract

This talk provides an overview of a developing research project on the transformation of the concept of competition, and its increasing institutionalisation, in the historical formation of modern liberal culture. I argue that competition is a core cultural concept that is crucial in organising and legitimating power relations in liberal forms of society. It facilitates authoritative allocations of power and rewards in a form of society that is typically suspicious of authority, and it does this across multiple domains: economics, politics, science, the arts, and so on. Particularly telling here, is the way competition exhibits many of the key features of ‘ritual’ typically associated with religion. It dramatizes core cultural values, performatively transforms the social roles of participants, inculcates community, and authorises outcomes by linking them to an underlying cosmological order. I present competition as a key to the cultural analysis of liberal society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalHumanities: Christianity and Culture
Volume48
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016

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