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Title: No Competition without Solidarity?
Subtitle: Three Normative Frameworks for Analyzing the Fairness of Competition
Author(s): ARNSPERGER, Christian
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 18    Issue: 3   Date: 2011   
Pages: 355-383
DOI: 10.2143/EP.18.3.2131127

Abstract :
This paper argues that the question of the compatibility between competition and solidarity needs to be clarified by distinguishing a variety of possible normative frameworks. Using a core metaphor of a race between runners hired by stadiums, I develop and discuss three ethical frameworks: (i) the emergentist perspective, which considers that competition is in itself the locus of solidarity; (ii) the social-democratic perspective, which views solidarity as the main counterweight to the abrasive effects of competition – without, however, calling into question the system that generates this competition; and (iii) the oppositional perspective, which considers solidarity as an implication of the desire to assist the victims of asymmetrical social power, unfairly distributed through competition, and therefore sees ‘genuine’ solidarity as a means to subvert competitive logic itself. In each case, I deconstruct the fundamental ‘axioms’ that underlie the approach, and I gradually demonstrate why there are compelling ethical arguments for a radical subversion of the logic of competition within a framework of ‘genuine’ solidarity. Thus, while the social-democratic perspective trumps the emergentist perspective, it is in turn trumped by the oppositional perspective. The basic idea is that competition which is statically fair, tends to become dynamically unfair, revealing a deep-lying source of structural alienation. This requires a renewed view of the nature of agents’ rationality, however, and an abandonment of some cherished beliefs and prejudices concerning the alleged fairness of competition in market economies.

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