Skip navigation
Skip navigation

Competition and Cooperation in Economic and Christian Thought: Towards a Better Understanding

White, Christopher John

Description

Economists and Christian theologians/ethicists (hereafter “Christians”) have not typically communicated well, partly due to different orientations of their disciplines: economists generally regard their discipline as positive (explaining why things are as they are), whereas Christians see their discipline as normative (describing how things should be). I discuss one example of this distinction: the focus of economists on agents’ actions (assuming motives are...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorWhite, Christopher John
dc.date.accessioned2017-02-14T22:51:49Z
dc.date.available2017-02-14T22:51:49Z
dc.identifier.otherb43715941
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/112357
dc.description.abstractEconomists and Christian theologians/ethicists (hereafter “Christians”) have not typically communicated well, partly due to different orientations of their disciplines: economists generally regard their discipline as positive (explaining why things are as they are), whereas Christians see their discipline as normative (describing how things should be). I discuss one example of this distinction: the focus of economists on agents’ actions (assuming motives are given), contrasted with the focus of Christians on motives (though for whom actions are by no means a matter of indifference). Economists and Christians also use certain terms in different senses, having the effect of compounding these communication difficulties. Primarily, this thesis examines one such communication difficulty – the understandings of competition and cooperation (and related terms such as rivalry and altruism respectively). My argument is that economists generally use the terms in a structural sense: in particular that competition in its “perfect” form is the economic structure by which efficient exchange is best facilitated, and that cooperation results from that structural state. However, Christians generally use the terms in a psychological sense: competition is viewed primarily as rivalry, and cooperation as a deliberate act of the will to love one’s neighbour as oneself, or to go beyond self-love to altruistic self-sacrificial love of the other. I also examine how the terms are used in a number of other disciplines, particularly evolutionary biology, as a means of nuancing the understanding of this distinction. I explore the concept of cooperation in economics by examining how it is treated in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. In the case of the Christian concept of cooperation, I argue for the inclusion of acts which are mutually beneficial to both donor and recipient, as well as acts of self-sacrificial altruism (which latter is often argued to be the Christian ethical norm). I discuss rivalness (the property of many goods that makes them available to only one person), competition and rivalry in both economic and Christian contexts. In the economic case, the discussion illustrates the structural understanding, and the important point that economic thought looks for structures that enable positive-sum rather than just zero-sum economic engagements. However an examination of these concepts in the biblical record, and in writers from the Reformation to the present, indicates an overwhelmingly psychological understanding in the Christian case. Finally, I examine two twentieth century thinkers who wrote at length on competition. Economist Frank Knight specified the conditions for the structural form of (perfect) competition, but then inter alia critiqued those conditions, giving them an apparently psychological aspect: however I argue Knight is really critiquing the competitive economic model itself rather than competition as such. Christian William Temple seldom gets past seeing competition in its psychological form of (largely destructive) rivalry. I thus conclude that the overwhelming views of competition and cooperation in economic thought are structural, contrasted with those in Christian thought which are psychological, and that a better appreciation by members of each disciplinary community of understandings by members of the other community would help improve inter-disciplinary communication.
dc.language.isoen
dc.subjectCompetition
dc.subjectcooperation
dc.subjectaltruism
dc.subjectrivalry
dc.subjectrivalness
dc.subjectstructural
dc.subjectpsychological
dc.subjectAdam Smith
dc.subjectFrank Knight
dc.subjectWilliam Temple
dc.titleCompetition and Cooperation in Economic and Christian Thought: Towards a Better Understanding
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorBrennan, H Geoffrey
local.contributor.supervisorcontactGeoffrey.Brennan@anu.edu.au
dcterms.valid2016
local.description.notesThe author deposited 15/02/17
local.type.degreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
dc.date.issued2016
local.contributor.affiliationCollege of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d74e85135fa4
local.mintdoimint
CollectionsOpen Access Theses

Download

File Description SizeFormat Image
White Thesis 2016.pdf2.55 MBAdobe PDFThumbnail


Items in Open Research are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

Updated:  19 May 2020/ Responsible Officer:  University Librarian/ Page Contact:  Library Systems & Web Coordinator