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Competition, Coordination, Social Order

Responsible Business, Civil Society, and Government in an Open Society


Jacek Giedrojć

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.

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Chapter 2: Coordinating Mechanisms


This section elaborates on the theory of four coordinating mechanisms that jointly account for social order. It starts with a mental experiment drawing on familiar accounts of social order stylised by some classic writers. The mental experiment comes in two stages. The first stage concerns what I call the first-order coordinating mechanisms: rivalry (chaos), community and absolute rule by one. The first-order mechanisms are merely theoretical stepping stones, useful to highlight some properties of social order but too deductive and abstract to be applied to analysis of actual societies (with one exception, that of community, which also applies to the next stage of discussion). The section goes on to develop a set of three second-order mechanisms that are more realistic depiction of how we mutually orient our behaviour: hierarchy, deliberation and competition. The present theory accounts for social order in contemporary Western societies with these second-order mechanisms as well as community comprising residual routines and norms inherited from the past.

The starting point of the mental experiment is the lack of any coordination – chaos. All agents do as they please. This situation (the top apex of the triangle in Figure 1) corresponds to the Hobbesian war of all against all – the imaginary state at which humans arrived when increase in population led to scarcity necessitating interaction. Of course, I am not making any claims as to the historical realism or even possibility of such a state.

From a social scientist’s point of view, chaos...

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