As explained by institutional theory, people have the tendency to adhere to traditional institutions despite the presence of far better and more efficient alternatives due to their belief that with age comes stability and as such would be a better choice than an untested and potentially unstable system.
One example of this can be seen in today’s social institutions wherein in one way or another people still adhere to practices related to competition and competitive behavior wherein society today is often described as a “dog eat dog world” defined by inter and intra social competitive behaviors and traditions.
This is evident in the U.S. social system today where individuals actively compete against each other in various aspects related to work, social standing and a variety of similar situations all of which involve individuals working towards “getting ahead”. In fact the concept of “getting ahead” is so ingrained in American society today that it is an ubiquitous concept adhered to by a large percentage of the population all of whom want to “get ahead” of their fellow man.
This of course has created a distinctly individualistically oriented society wherein instead of a sense of community people develop behaviors in relation to the improvement of one’s own life instead of the community itself. What must be understood is that competition often results in limitations being placed on particular social classes in terms of the type of opportunities they are given, the communities they can belong to and the types of jobs they can have.
This of course prolongs the social condition of people thinking in an adverse competitive way in their desire to get ahead; this shows how the idea continues to propagate in between social classes and becomes an almost everyday fixture in the lives of nearly all individuals within society.
Due to the fact that people think in relation to how a particular activity will help them achieve their own quality of success rather than that of others, this has resulted in people rationalizing society and life itself as an active competition divided between winners and losers, with winners standing on the top of society’s ladder with the losers well below them.
This has actually resulted in the development of distinct societal attitudes akin to prejudice and discrimination wherein people on the top of the social ladder believe themselves to be superior due to them “winning” in life’s competition. The reason behind such actions is due to the concept of Speciesism which is based on the belief that the category a particular individual or group belongs to is inherently superior to all other groups (Singer, 567).
All this does is create a distinct divisiveness within society which is already plagued by various lines drawn upon the figurative sands of race, class and economic distinction. While it is true that a certain degree of healthy competition encourages people to be more proactive and industrious however the fact remains that the current type of societal competition that is currently being advocated has resulted in distinctly negative results and as such should be changed in order to create a more cooperative and progressive society.
As indicated by Martin Luther King Jr. in his essay “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression” it is often the case that people tend to accept the social situation they are and live in it rather than fight for a better kind of life. In such cases this only promotes the action and allows it to continue in succeeding generations.
The current prevalence of adverse competitive attitudes in society today is evidence of both the assertions of King and of the tenets of institutional theory which show how people have the tendency to merely accept the way things are rather than institute change for the better. It is based on this that what is needed is to respond to the current competitive system within society by establishing new social institutions that encourage cooperative action and positive competition.
Instead of a dog eat dog world what should be advocated is a society where instead of attempting to get ahead of other people for the sake of being ahead a better approach would be to improve oneself for the betterment of society in order to help improve society for the better. This can be done by removing the societal notion that getting ahead is the only goal in life and replace it with the notion that the through cooperative and community based action people can achieve great things.
People in society today always seem to think that attaining a particular high ranking position, gaining a lot of money or having valuable possessions is the goal everyone should attempt to reach. The only problem with such a goal is that it, as mentioned earlier, encourages disreputable practices, individualistic thinking and a form of crab mentality.
The second response that should be done is to implement new legislative measures which enable greater social and racial equality. One of the main reasons behind societies competitive practices is the fact that social and economic situations often prove such practices as being justified given the resulting beneficial effects they have on the lives of people who are “winners”.
By enacting new legislative measures in the form of tax breaks, government assistance and educational assistance for minorities beyond what is being implemented today the end result would create a greater degree of equality between minorities and the majority in terms of economic status which should lead to the development of new societal ideas where the concept of equality within a community seems better than living a life of success yet being relegated to a life of individuality.
Singer, Peter. “SPECIESISM AND MORAL STATUS.” Metaphilosophy 40.3/4 (2009): 567-581. EBSCO. Web. 11 July. 2011.