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No Contest: The Case Against Competition [Paperback]

Alfie Kohn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 11 2006
No Contest stands as the definitive critique of competition. Contrary to accepted wisdom, competition is not basic to human nature; it poisons our relationships and holds us back from doing our best. In this new edition, Alfie Kohn argues that the race to win turns all of us into losers.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Contending that competition in all areasschool, family, sports and businessis destructive, and that success so achieved is at the expense of another's failure, Kohn, a correspondent for USA Today, advocates a restructuring of our institutions to replace competition with cooperation. He persuasively demonstrates how the ingrained American myth that competition is the only normal and desirable way of lifefrom Little Leagues to the presidencyis counterproductive, personally and for the national economy, and how psychologically it poisons relationships, fosters anxiety and takes the fun out of work and play. He charges that competition is a learned phenomenon and denies that it builds character and self-esteem. Kohn's measures to encourage cooperation in lieu of competition include promoting noncompetitive games, eliminating scholastic grades and substitution of mutual security for national security.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Kohn, a journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as The Nation and Psychology Today , has written a timely summary of research and commentary by others on the psychology of competitiveness. He seeks to debunk "the rationalizations for competition"that it is inevitable, more productive, more enjoyable, and likely to build character. In closely reasoned argument he shows that, while competition is deeply ingrained, it is also inherently destructive, especially where self-esteem is contingent on winning at the expense of others. The book, which lacks depth only in its discussion of organizational behavior and the incentive for creativity, will provoke considerable discussion. Recommended for general collections and subject collections on social interaction. William Abrams, Portland State Univ. Lib., Ore.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning: this book could change your life March 5 2003
By A Customer
A friend recommended this to me because it changed her life. It is changing mine as well. Like the fish who has suddenly become aware of the water around him, I have become aware of the competitive environment in which we live - and how that environment is slowly poisoning us.
Kohn defines competition as "mutually exclusive goal attainment" - a situation where someone wins only if others lose. This type of structure, by its very nature, erodes human relationships. Kohn is not asking us to do away with incentives or tests - he is asking us to stop using them to determine a "winner." Kohn shows that people in a cooperative setting will attain a goal with more efficiency and creativity than people in a competitive setting.
But what about market competitiveness and the benefits for consumers? Yes, but think of the goal, the driving force behind this: making more money than the next company. That means polluting the environment (cleaner is usually more expensive), exploiting workers (the so-called minimum wage is not enough for anyone to live on), and even committing fraud. As Kohn explains, the nature of competition means that the goal becomes the most important thing. Everything else is merely an obstacle; everyone else an enemy.
Sometimes I wish I hadn't read this book - it has thrown my view of the world upside down and made me question my work at a management consulting company. But I realize this is just the initial discomfort one feels after walking out of a dark room into the sunlight. The glare may hurt at first, but after your eyes have adjusted, you appreciate the new world you see around you. This book may hurt at first, but give it a chance and see if it doesn't change your world and your relationships for the better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Competition's destructive side Nov. 19 2001
By A Customer
In response to the negative review, it is ridiculous to talk about human progress built on the effort to compete when the negative results of this so-called progress are so evident, both in terms of the rampant unhappiness and low self-esteem of people in the "wealthy" world in spite of their success, as well as the horrific destruction of natural resources in the wake of such progress. The majority of people are in jobs that they detest, competing with one another for things they don't even want. Obviously, this outdated competitive model is questionable. It is also ridiculous to say that writing a book or expressing oneself is necessarily a competitive act. To put one's thoughts "out there" doesn't mean that you are concerned with how your book does in comparison to someone else's. I know that for myself, as an author, it is not a consideration. If it's helpful to people, and they buy it, then I make a living, which has nothing to do whatsoever with competition unless I make it so. If they don't, so be it. Mr. Kohn has proposed something very valuable to anyone who works with children - as an educator, parent or volunteer. It is quite obvious to see children shrink when competition is required. They need to know that who they are is even more important than what they do. That creates people who strive to compete with themselves and not others, which is never more than comparing apples and oranges anyway, as we are all unique and tests are inadequate to show that. I recommend this book to anyone who is a supervisor, manager, teacher or parent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The competitive mindset can be unlearned Sept. 3 2001
In this inspiring and well-researched book Alfie Kohn describes how we, in our compulsion to rank ourselves against one another, turn almost everything into a contest (at work, at school, at play, at home). Often, we assume that working toward a goal and setting standards for ourselves can only take place if we compete against others. By perceiving tasks or play as a contest we often define the situation to be one of MEGA: mutually exclusive goal attainment.
This means: my success depends on your failure. Is this wise? No! Is this inevitable? No! This book brilliantly shows how: 1) competitiveness is NOT an inevitable feature of human nature (in fact, human nature is overwhelmingly characterised by its opposite - co-operation), 2) superior performance not only does not require competition; it usually seems to require its absence (because competition often distracts people from the task at hand, the collective does usually not benefit from our individual struggles against each other), 3) competition in sports might be less healthy than we usually think because it contributes to the competitive mindset (while research shows that non-competitive games can be at least as enjoyable and challenging as competitive ones), 4) competition does not build good character; it undermines self esteem (most competitors lose most of the time because by definition not everyone can win), 5) competition damages relationships, 6) a competitive mindset makes transforming of organizations and society harder (those things requiring a collective effort and a long-term commitment).
I think many people reading this book will recognize in themselves their tendency to think competitively and will feel challenged and inspired to change. And that's a good thing. Our fates are linked.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I am not overly impressed with this book's condition based on...
The seller wrote that it was shelf damaged only. He said there was no inside markings. In fact, the first page was torn out...perhaps to get rid of an inspcription? Read more
Published 8 months ago by jane jones
3.0 out of 5 stars yeah right, cooperate in business
Replace competition with cooperation in business? LOL. I would like to see the airline industry begin to 'cooperate' and not be so competitive. Yeah. Cooperate and set prices. Read more
Published on April 16 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Kohn�s Non-cooperative Stance Against Competition
Alfie Kohn's competing view to America's sacrosanct blind obsession with competition is well researched and articulated. Read more
Published on July 20 2003 by Shane Robertson
4.0 out of 5 stars Kohn�s Non-cooperative Stance Against Competition
Alfie Kohn's competing view to America's sacrosanct blind obsession with competition is well researched and articulated. Read more
Published on July 20 2003 by Shane Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars URGENT-please read immediately!
A must read for everyone raised in a competitve society like America,and most emphatically for each and every American.
Can not recommend this book enough
Published on May 11 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but dead wrong
As a mother might respond to a child's clever proposition : "I don't think so."
Competition does not kill, any more than greed does. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2001 by Peter Lorenzi
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Summary; Potentially Life-Changing
Alfie Kohn's "No Contest: The Case Against Competition" (1986) was an unexpected find. I've been a believer in the free market system, with products getting better and... Read more
Published on June 1 2001 by Hidden Wisdom
5.0 out of 5 stars Competition Kills
I've lived in a country which had been forcibly brought into the Soviet Union. Countless stories from relatives and friends have corroborated how horrible the repression was during... Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2001 by Vyto Stoskus
Mr. Kohn presents an excellent argument against the "carrot and stick" methods traditionally found in behaviorism. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2000 by BeatleBangs1964
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant argument which deserves serious treatment
if there were one book that i could insist be read by everyone on earth, this would be that book, without question. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2000 by A. Abruzzese
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