Dimensions of Real-World Competition: A Critical Realist Perspective

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    Mainstream economics consistently ignores the various socio-economic and environmental downsides of capitalist competition and instead lends legitimacy to the prevailing neoliberal discourse according to which merciless competition is unambiguously positive. In opposition to this one-dimensional view, the present paper delineates a heterodox perspective on competition that is able to recognise its many heterogeneous effects. The argument draws on selected aspects of the ontology of critical realism, adding substance to them with empirical findings and theoretical insights from different academic disciplines, with a particular focus on historical materialist political economy. Competition is conceptualised as a social relation, and the paper outlines how competition interacts with numerous other mechanisms to produce a variety of outcomes. Specifically, Roy Bhaskar’s concept of the social cube is utilised to propose a four-dimensional perspective that views competition in relation to (other) social relations, social practices, the subjectivity of agents and the natural environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPost-Autistic Economic Review
    Issue number66
    Pages (from-to)80-94
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2014


    • Competition
    • Critical realism
    • Social structures
    • The social cube

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