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Can solidarity and competition coexist?

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Analysed in three areas (economy, sport and school), these three values are driving forces for action and are often given as antinomics. At a time when Greater Lyon is embarking on a process aimed at rethinking the meaning of solidarity and its place in the city, it is important to question this double injunction. Should we consider that we must first be competitive in order to produce wealth to be redistributed or, conversely, should we affirm that the solidarity of a territory is a prerequisite for the conditions of competition to flourish?

After an attempt to define the two concepts in their emerging contexts, this text attempts to shed light on how they relate to each other. How have they been appreciated in relation to each other? Are they always understood as antinomic or are there alternatives to their opposition?

1. Competition and solidarity: which definitions should be adopted?

1.1 Solidarity: the long process of institutionalisation of social cohesion

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We will limit ourselves here to giving some brief indications of definitions, referring for details to a previous work.

In short, while the term solidarity is in recent use (19th century), what it means is found in different forms and under different names at different times. Generally speaking, we can distinguish two meanings of solidarity. The first refers to a fact: the interdependence of individuals in a social whole. The second makes it a value: it is right and good that the most powerful help the most fragile - whether they are temporarily weakened (illness, unemployment, etc.) or permanently (old age, disability, etc.). The organization, or implementation, of solidarity was first carried out by small social groups such as the family, charitable organizations, etc., before being entrusted to the State.

According to those who theorize the form of solidarity, only the State can guarantee social justice by ensuring that national solidarity is exercised equally for all, unlike family solidarity, for example, which is more discretionary and whose exercise depends on each family's own means.

In France, the contemporary solidarity system dates back to the end of the Second World War and is based on Social Insurance. It obliges employees to contribute to a fund that provides compensation to employees and their dependents in the event of illness, accident, etc. or when they reach retirement age. Strongly based on work, this system has been in crisis since the 1980s and the sustained rise in unemployment. In response to the question of poverty, the solidarity system is gradually being transformed to integrate an increasingly important part of what is called "assistance". Financed by taxes, and not by employee contributions, this form of solidarity consists of a series of "social minima" granted by the State to the most vulnerable.

1. 2. The competition: birth of a selection method

Definition, etymology and proxemia

The Larousse online, the Dictionnaire étymologique du français and the Trésor de la langue française informatisée (TLFi) all agree: the entry of the word compétition in the French language was made in the 18th century by the English word competition, itself derived from the Latin competitio which means rival bid.

According to the TLFi "competition" is attested in the French language in 1759 and means "rivalry" or, according to the Larousse (1905 edition), the "claim of the same object". The TFLi indicates a second meaning of the term belonging to the vocabulary of sport. In fact, the 8th edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française (1932-1935) gives for competition :

"The act of competing. Europe was troubled by the competition of these two states. "60 years later, the 9th edition (1992-) shows an enrichment of the vocabulary:

"Rivalry between persons or groups of persons with a view to obtaining dignity, office, function and, by ext., advantage. A fiery, bitter competition. To enter, to compete. Competition is open between candidates. The spirit of competition. By anal. Competition. Commercial, economic competition. Two companies, two countries competing to conquer a market. 2. SPORTS. The act of participating in sports events. To compete in motor racing. He has just abandoned competition. By meton. Event involving a title, a trophy. Attending a track and field, skiing competition. A competition for amateurs only. An international competition. A sailboat, a racing car. »

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It does not appear that the word "competition" was in very common use in French until the meaning carried by the sports context in general became widely used. Thus, we can see the curve of occurrences of "rivalry" and "competition" in the literature intersecting in the 1950s (Fig.1).

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