Responsible Business, Civil Society, and Government in an Open Society
The author analyses competition as one of four coordinating mechanisms helping agents mutually to orientate their actions, avoid chaos, and produce social order. Competition is a key dimension of developed societies. It helps to structure and is also conducive to social change. Competing agents constrain one another, making it hard for anyone to change their position. They discover new routines the best of which may later be institutionalized. Competition is a solvent of power but only in relatively equal societies. Entrenched wealth or status restricts competition, thus impoverishing social order. The author also evaluates the theory of competition to explore such topics as corporate social responsibility, relations between government, business and civil society, and reflexivity in social sciences.
Conclusions from this work are divided into four groups. The first covers the nature of competition as well as its comparison and relations with other mechanisms. The second group gathers the insights about conditions in which competition is likely to be most useful. The third collects methodological and meta-theoretical conclusions. Finally, the last group comprises practical implications.
There are three dimensions of competition as a coordinating mechanism. The structural dimension is due to the propensity of agents competing for discretion to take up any slack, easily attained discretion, or unused opportunities in the system. In competitive systems, discretion tends to be only temporary; it is being continually competed away by agents. In the perfect competition version, with no exogenous change, it is just making every agent do the same thing, keep him/her from departing from their consumption or production function. Perfect competition does not admit any discretion. In a system in which some agents enjoy discretion, competitive actions by other agents prevent entrenchment. This is done in a dynamic, fluid way without relying on any authority to enforce it. The institutions may be changing but competition works to keep everyone, including elites, honest; because others are constantly trying, so must the elites. The structural dimension contributes to the social order directly, as agents by their participation tighten the structure, and constantly remove discretion from the system. It also contributes indirectly as the fluidity of the system releases the pressure, which might otherwise build up and precipitate...
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