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No Contest: The Case Against Competition Paperback – November 12, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 2nd, Revised edition (November 12, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395631254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395631256
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

More About the Author

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. He is the author of twelve books and hundreds of articles. Kohn has been described by Time Magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades and test scores." He has appeared twice on "Oprah," as well as on "The Today Show," NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and on many other TV and radio programs. He spends much of his time speaking at education conferences, as well as to parent groups, school faculties, and researchers. Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area - and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.

Customer Reviews

I would recommend it to anyone, especially parents.
JOE T ZINN
In fact, its assembled evidence and the startling conclusions they lead to is part of the potentially mind-altering nature of the book.
mlund
I have always hated competition...I have two boys that have never liked it either and they are both very smart..
beachgaljess

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By mlund on February 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having just finished No Contest: The Case Against Competition, fully twenty years after its first publication, I feel like someone coming late to a party, only to find few have arrived before me in what I expected to be a crowded gathering. Scanning the divergent and often passionate Amazon reviews offered on this provocative, original, and gentle but thoroughly radical critique of our society, I felt compelled to add my voice and ask, simply, did Adam Smith get it wrong?

However you might answer that question, now or after reading No Contest, you will agree that the implications of your own answer are considerable, for you and, perhaps, for us all. Your ideas about competition are fundamental to the way you will live your life each day, to the type of world you will work to create, and to how you will feel about and treat those of us who are around you.

Across twenty-five reviews of No Contest spanning a decade, the book garners a solid four out of five stars, but there is a divergence in these reviews that is telling and important. Amidst mostly five-star ratings and words of praise and encouragement for what is an excellent work, consistently about twenty percent of reviewers rank this book very low and offer commentary that is quite dismissive. These latter reviews seem, in some cases, to lack poignancy and clear expression, an infraction Kohn cannot be accused of, and some are quite hostile.

I bring up this persistent disparity of reactions to No Contest because it underscores a central hypothesis of Kohn's work: that competition and the competitive structures around us alters us.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Coert Visser on September 3, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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