Productive and Unproductive Competition: A Unified Framework

Alice Guerra, Barbara Luppi, Francesco Parisi

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Conventional theories of competition classify contests as being either “productive”, when the competitive efforts generate a surplus for society, or “unproductive”, when competition generates no social surplus and merely distributes already existing resources. These two discrete categories of competition create a division of real-world situations into analytical categories that fails to recognize the entire spectrum of competitive activities. Taking the existing models of productive and unproductive competition as benchmark idealizations, this paper revisits the relationship between the privately and socially optimal levels of competition in the full range of intermediate cases, as well as in the extremum cases of destructive and super-productive competition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomia Politica
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)785–804
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Contests
  • Rent seeking
  • Unproductive competition
  • Productive competition
  • Patent races

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