Potentials of Cooperation

Analyse & Kritik 33 (1):7-33 (2011)
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Abstract

Since Hobbes' Leviathan was published in 1651, the 'problem of order' has been known for some time. Despite this long gestation period for social theory even today we do not have a universally agreed upon answer to this 'problem'. One of the reasons behind this lacuna may be the overly dispersed work being done in the economic and sociological traditions. Whereas one tradition favours 'collective action' as a central answer, the other thinks of the problem itself being dissolved by the acceptance of 'socialized man'. Here, an attempt is made to offer the phenomenon of 'cooperation' as a promising middle ground for both traditions. To underline the importance of cooperation as an elementary social activity, first, cooperation is shown as working in tandem with its rival 'competition'. Secondly, several conceptual analyses of what is included in collective action and cooperation are offered. These analyses, thirdly, are deepened by an overview of the motivational bases potentially advancing cooperation. Overall, an awareness of the self-creating character of cooperation is explored, and put forward as the most feasible way of answering the classical problem of order

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Anton Leist
University of Zürich