Competition is among the few social-scientific concepts clearly associated with the transparency discourse—obvious today when a myriad of public “ratings” and “rankings” evaluate states, universities, and other actors while often claiming to advance the transparency of those actors and their performances. This article deals with this association from a historical-sociological perspective. It argues that public rankings and similar discursive devices not only symbolize competition but also create and reproduce it, creating what is called here, “artificial zero-sum games.” On this basis, it also makes the case that a more sophisticated conceptualization of public forms of competition draws attention to a long-term historical trend, the beginnings of which can be traced to the 19th century. The argument is presented in two steps: In the first part, a sociological model of public forms of competition is proposed that combines classical sociologist Georg Simmel’s concept of “indirect” and “pure” competition (= competition as a struggle for the favor of a third party) with insights from communication theory, market sociology, media, and globalization research. This model implies that public communication processes create competition by imagining an anonymous audience that enables this kind of competition through its very indefiniteness and anonymity. Thus “publicity” or “publicness,” rather than “transparency,” seem to be the more adequate terms to conceptualize these forms of competition. The second part discusses historical-sociological implications of this model, analyzing competition between nation-states (and national collective identities) in the light of recent globalization research, claiming and describing three trends—toward competition for modernity prestige, specific cultural achievement prestige, and attention/legitimacy—since the late-19th century.
Werron T. On public forms of competition. Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies. 2014;14(1):62-76.
Werron, T. (2014). On public forms of competition. Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies, 14(1), 62-76.
Werron, T. (2014). On public forms of competition. Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies 14, 62-76.
Werron, T., 2014. On public forms of competition. Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies, 14(1), p 62-76.
T. Werron, “On public forms of competition”, Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies, vol. 14, 2014, pp. 62-76.
Werron, T.: On public forms of competition. Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies. 14, 62-76 (2014).
Werron, Tobias. “On public forms of competition”. Cultural Studies <> Critical Methodologies 14.1 (2014): 62-76.
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