In this paper I will be making an attempt to distinguish between competition and contest. Competition is central to the value schemata inherent to current market capitalism. Contest, I will argue, is often confused with competition in terms of the arguments for the value of competition. Much of my explication of contest will be drawn from Nietzsche's Homer's Contest. The purpose of this essay will be to argue that capitalism as fuelled by the logic of competition is detrimental to what we might call human dignity. That is that capitalism is essentially making human life meaningless, as competition is not what we might call properly human, and that the contest, that which is more properly human (and I will explain what I mean by this below) needs to be ingrained in the market system. When I accuse above of competition making human life meaningless, I wish meaningless to be understood in the strictest way possible, that is that human life no longer becomes understood as distinct from life itself. For something to be meaningful means that it is has a position within a system of differences, the differences being what allow something to have meaning. The assumption here is that the institutions of market capitalism do not guarantee the functioning of the system, that the same institutions would behave differently given a different understanding of themselves. When Nietzsche's madman runs into the marketplace announcing the death of God, he is met with blank faces and blinking. For the market God has been replaced by the invisible hand, but what lies underneath, behind, the invisible hand, is the deification of the force of necessity, the glorification of competition. There is no invisible hand, no natural way for the system to function, it depends solely on the ends of agents involved and to the space in which it occupies, this space is the space of competition over and above that of the contest. It should be noted here, however that this distinction is by no means meant to be a sharp, mutually exclusive contrast. Competition and contest are here to be used as poles on a spectrum of possibilities and any given case or institution might well share in both, however the argument for this essay will be that the culture in which we live tends towards favouring competition.

"Deification of success is always commensurate with human meanness" (Nietzsche, notes from Homer's Contest). While describing the concept of competition used in this essay I will also try to compare it to different standard practices in business and among corporations. Competition is always oriented towards winning the competition, it is always organized towards the end. Although within contemporary liberal capitalist democracies, efforts are often taken to make sure that monopolies are avoided, companies are to act as if they were to become the one and only. A competition is worthless to the competitor that does not succeed. In a way we could think of competition, especially in terms of 'naturalness' as being about survival. Competition in nature, success in nature, in its rawest, most animal of forms means survival and reproduction, it is bare life, competing through economies of brute force. Market capitalism has taken that as the basis from which it functions. For indeed the companies competing in market capitalism have as their two goals, survival and reproduction, and by reproduction here I mean growth, pure growth, growth for no other sake than growth. The production of new markets, for example in expansion overseas is like the building of a new nest or den, preparing the way for a new litter, but not necessarily a new litter, but rather an additional litter. This is the measure of success, the ability to grow, to simply add more of itself to itself. Since the end of the competition is always the growth of the competitors (at the expense of each other given a limited amount of resources, say, the spending capacity of the market that the competitors are selling to), let us explore the ramifications of orienting the system towards competition. The emphasis on survival and reproduction is ultimately conservative, and its primary value, above all else is efficiency. This can often be seen in the animal kingdom as well as in current capitalist economies, the idea being that the least amount of expenditure, the least amount of risk, for the greatest possible gain. While it is often touted that capitalism encourages risk and innovation, it is precisely the opposite case. It encourages necessary and calculated risks and attempts to eliminate, or protect itself, from both, through calculating in advance the most efficient way of securing success. Since the only thing worthwhile in competition is success, the competition is a competition of winning in advance, for example, endless market research and marketing to make sure that a product will sell so many units even before it is released. Competitors rarely ever take risks, in the sense of putting itself in danger for the sake of doing something, where risks are taken it is for the sake of survival and success, not for the sake of what it is doing, for the deed itself. A risk isn't taken until the competitor is already in danger. This leads to another aspect of competition, that what is being done in the name of competition is never as important as the success, the ends always justify the means, but never the other way around, the ends are always more important the means. This is why we have the trend towards companies, Nike for example, who in order to become more efficient, and thereby successful, has divested itself of any productive activity whatsoever. Nike, hires other smaller companies to make shoes, then puts its name on the shoes, and then sells the shoes. Companies often gear themselves entirely towards putting a name on a product and selling the name more than the product. All this goes to show in a lot of ways that every activity, in the eyes of the competitor is meaningless without the desired goal of the competition. What Nike does to compete, to survive and reproduce itself, is absolutely meaningless to Nike. It does not desire to make the best shoes as the quality of the shoes matters only in so far as is necessary to succeed, and in the case of Nike, it can divest itself of the product if need be. The actions performed by a company are always secondary to the output. Two shoe companies do not compete to outdo each other in terms of making the best shoe, but compete for the sake of success and reproduction, whoever makes the best shoe is not necessarily the better company, the better company is the one that can reproduce and survive the most efficiently. The desirability of efficiency of course is to eliminate, or at least, lessen the amount of risk investors have to take when investing in the company in question. Efficiency has such a value because the more efficient one is, the greater the chance of success of securing a predetermined goal- securing one's survival and reproduction. The level of efficiency can determine one's success or failure in advance.

Since efficiency is the primary value of competition, human dignity is always considered problematic for competitors. What is human dignity? As Nozick tells us, human dignity is in the separateness of individuals, that is, in their ability to be different. However, given that human dignity then cannot simply be the dignity of one person, or the dignity of the individual but only in the plurality, and this is what Nozick misses. If human dignity lies in the ability of each individual to be different and unique then it always requires more than one person, or more importantly different people. If everybody was the same, human dignity would then not exist, there would no longer be the differentiation required for it. Now, however, I would like to discuss how capitalism as competition puts this dignity in jeopardy for the sake of efficiency and thereby, success. Firstly, because competition runs on efficiency it is more beneficial for competitors to exterminate its competition, it is more efficient, providing a greater guarantee of survival and reproduction, if there is no one whom I am competing against. In a competition, it is ideal to eliminate the competitors, even more ideally in advance of the actual competition, before the competitors have entered the arena, (an example here might be the big 'box-stores' locating somewhere and then attempting to undercut the competition to the point where its competition can't survive). In this sense the competitor in attempting to guarantee its success, renounces its dignity in the attempt to become the One. Secondly, a pluralized marketplace is an inefficient marketplace. For example, consider a business in competition attempting to sell its products to two markets. In market A everyone wants the same things, everyone is in agreement as to what to purchase, this market is more efficient and more desirable to the one competing for it, because for a smaller amount of input, a greater amount of output can be secured. All that is needed is one product, mass-produced and little effort is needed to market it. In market B there is a much greater level of diversity, and just diversity among self-identical 'units' but a diversity with a dynamism in which the 'units' are transforming. This market space is much less appealing to the competitor as it demands much more effort for the same amount of output. Thus diversity, the condition for human dignity, becomes an obstacle to success. What is most specifically erosive of human dignity in the logic of capitalism as competition, is that works on the logic of necessity. The invisible hand is precisely the functioning of necessity. The argument for the competetive marketplace is that it will function smoothly because the activities will be necessarily determined, there is room for innovation, but innovation as it responds to necessity. The innovation in question, the forces at work in the logic of competition are always reactive and always refer back to a certain need, the need to become more efficient, more competetive. Through the economics of necessity humans become more calculable, more mechanized, as a way of becoming more competitive, more efficient. An example might be the argument sometimes heard for the privatization of post-secondary education is that by making the schools more competetive, people will be more 'responsible' in choosing their educational programs and make their decisions more teleologically oriented towards the job market, because of the fact that they will have to pay for it themselves. In essence an attempt to use the logic of necessity to produce a certain type of person, one that will be more competetive and efficient.

Where the contest differs is that it is not end oriented. The contest is for the sake of the contest itself. The contest is for the sake of displaying one's talents, skills and abilities against those of another. If competition has its end, acquisition and security, and thus it would desirable to eliminate others, the contest always needs an other to keep it open, in fact the other is the very condition of the contest. In the contest, survival and reproduction are not the goals, the goal in essence, is to create for those involved in the contest a unique identity. For the two involved in the contest, the goal is to overcome, but not do away with, the one who contests me. The two shoe companies contesting each other's claims to produce the 'best' shoe, must attempt to actually do that, rather than simply be the most efficient, profitable company. Competition works in the logic of necessity as I have already said, the contest is entirely different. Contest works by positing values, and against other values (but without necessarily being driven to eliminate the other whom I am contesting). Although it is often claimed that through competition individuation and risk are produced and encouraged, it is only in the space of the contest that this happens. The contest demands risk and exposure to danger and vulnerability as the initial condition of entering the contest whereas competition wishes to engender these by forcing such things to happen. To enter the contest I must always posit something as valuable over and above bare survival, reproduction and raw growth, competition is driven by the need for those three things. Whereas competitors wants to avoid pluralities and complex dynamics of competition (as they would lead to inefficiency), the contest aims towards entering these dynamics and pluralities in order to display myself as unique. The space of the contest is one in which human dignity floursihes, precisely because it the space whereby necessity is not enough, and can be seen in the fact that value of the contest is indifferent to the chances of success and failure, that even in failure the contest itself might still be valuable, especially if one fails well, that is, in a way in which one still 'makes a name for oneself' in a way in which I become distinct from all others and irreducibly unique. The worth of the contest and the contestors is always extrinsic to their success or failure, the importance is rather on the force and intensity with which the contest for the sake of the what was contested. The contest is a much more suitable arena for individuation then competition, because it requires that to enter it I posit a value as being more important then the demands of what is necessary and over and above any tangible and immediate returns. As we defined human dignity, it is precisely the ability for human beings to become unique that would be a condition for achieving human dignity. The primary difference is that the contest is not goal-oriented, the goal of entering a contest is to contest something, or someone, certainly, one wants to be victorious, but the main point is that something was contested. It is this difference between the contest and competition that fundamentally determines their logics and functionings, and ultimately their ability to promote or erode human dignity.