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No Contest: The Case Against Competition

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  430 ratings  ·  45 reviews
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.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 12th 1992 by Mariner Books (first published 1986)
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Jonathan Gascho
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thorough and pointed. I had never even considered competition as anything but a positive force in our society, but Kohn's case is destabilising. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how these ideas fit into my life and world - don't read this if you're not prepared to set aside the necessary time for reflection.

My first thoughts: Ender's Game was one of my favourite books growing up. I think it might still be, but for different reasons. When I read it as a teenager I loved how driven the child
Adam Ross
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a fantastic look at how competition is fundamentally destructive to human life. Competition is lauded in everything in our culture, from economics to sports, career advancement, and bleeds into nearly everything we do, say, and think. Yet as this meticulously researched book shows, competition hurts everyone, increases stress, anxiety and depression, makes our news less informed, our lives less healthy and happy, and turns our political system into a sham. I would put this book on every ...more
Sean Saulsbury
As a huge fan of Kohn's other more popular works (Unconditional Parenting, Punished by Rewards), I was intrigued by this title. Sports are such a big part of our culture, and I've witnessed families and children get caught up in them in an unhealthy way. The book made me consider whether it was something about the nature of competition itself that was at the core of his kind of unhealthy behavior.

Unfortunately, Kohn doesn't prove his case. The overall thesis is good: wherever possible, look for
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
AK is an exceptional researcher and author. I wanted to pull my kids out of every competitive endeavor they were currently signed up for. The book is really brilliant. The one drawback to his arguments is this: we as a human species haven't moved beyond war and brutality and until everyone can get along, there are still lessons to be learned in competition. I realize it isn't perfect, but it is fact.

P 61 Jenifer Levin cited two studies showing that "when one does compete, intrinsic motivation t
Tory S. Anderson
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm giving it four stars not for the quality of writing -- I found the one-sided rhetoric tiresome by half way through -- but for the importance of the ideas it has. Despite taking an extreme stance in this book, Kohn gives a solid argument with intelligent research backing it.

The fundamental idea is that competition is destructive in all its forms, and is built into our society to the detriment of all: it is in our education, our economy, or legal system, and our recreation. He systematically
Erik Akre
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: social critics of contemporary capitalism culture
Far more than a treatise on competition in the educational setting, this book ranges as wide as you can imagine, into economics, competitive sports, and even the "pseudofeminism" that pits women against men in a man's arena. Competition is based on external motivation, and when we engage to "win," we remove fun and play from the situation, and impoverish it as such.

Kohn is eloquent in his criticism of capitalism--an economic system based on competition. He writes, "Capitalism works on the same p
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This radically changed how I have been encouraged to consider interacting with others.

Life is not so much of a contest, so much of a "whose cuisine reigns supreme?" question, in my experience, as much as a "given these parameters, what suits my purpose?"-type inquiry. (Convenience is far more important than one would imagine!)

I saw the pitfalls of setting students, or interns, or hirelings against each other through this tome.

Mankind makes more progress through teamwork than through fighting.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is well worth your time.

If you are like most people in the west, you've been brought up to believe in the value of competition in forging someone's character. I was this way until I read this book. I thought in terms of winners and losers and loved competitive endeavors. This award-winning, well researched book threw cold water in my face and woke me up to a different paradigm. Our society has been built on a dog-eat-dog paradigm and Kohn shows this doesn't build healthy well-adjusted
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very interesting exploration of the concept of competition. While the concept is greatly admired and idealized in our modern culture, Kohn explores the the negative consequences of competition. The book suggests that competition is much more harmful to us as individuals than is typically thought. As an educational expert, he concentrates on the concept of competition in schooling. While he does talk about some other applications of competition, I would have liked for the book to have examined ...more
Ian Roth
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my perspective drastically and helped to reach a new plateau of understanding and personal growth. There are sections of it that should be required reading for all the inhabitants of spaceship earth.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nate
I read this for a class and was convinced. Although it would be hard to imagine life without competition, there is a good case in this book that life would be better without it.
Dan Brady
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books during my MBA days. It really changed my thinking on the “value” of competition.
Marissa Morrison
May 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
A couple weeks ago, I came home to find the babysitter (my mom) and my daughter playing a matching game with--gasp!--two piles of paired cards. I took my mother aside and handed her this book. She replied, "I could read it a thousand times and it wouldn't change my mind that competition is healthy."

I'm equally guilty of pigheadedness, I guess, because I never finished reading the book but I'm pretty sure that I agree with it 100 percent. (Kohn's writing is surprisingly tedious in this one, but
Douglas Larson
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I greatly admire Kohn's ideas about competition, how it is but one model that human-kind has followed for millenia. When looking at games we devise and play, Kohn points out that competition creates an artifical scarcity where none existed before. Instead of having a game where there is a winner and a loser (e.g. football, basketgall to name a few), why not track each player's play and then compare it to that same player's prior playing. This way each player can improve their game and no win/los ...more
This explains a lot about life as I have experienced it. I will be thinking about it and incorporating its concepts into my worldview and choices for a long time to come.

5 star ideas and concepts set within a
1 star tedious, dry, hard to get through book.

It should not have taken me nearly that long to finish a 196 page book.
Mar 10, 2010 rated it liked it
I am often mislabeled as competitive. It is true that I do not like to lose, but I do not like to compete and I agreed with many of the authors arguments. Book club was split in their opinions on this one depending on how competitive they are. Not a fun read but an interesting one.
Edith Lueke
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this while still working, long ago. It's been a favorite ever since! ...more
Jody Spencer
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this and you'll realize how ingrained competition is in our society and how damaging it can be. ...more
Stephen Thomas jr.
excellent book. It really makes me think about how competition subtley shapes all of our lives and we do not even know it.
Mar 22, 2020 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a required book for my BYU sociology class waaaay back when. My teacher was a little obsessed with it, but I don’t remember anything about it today (2020), except the title and the interesting idea of looking for cooperative opportunities for my children instead of competitive activities. I think I need to give this book a re-read. I think of it often.
Georgie Alef
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
No sure what I think of this concept. It is in our nature to be in relationship but we must feel fulfilled also.
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Coming from someone who has had a pretty competitive mentality most of his life, this book was really an eye-opener. I'm a very introspective person so I have no problem with facing myself in an attempt to understand the reasons and motivations that drive to me to act in a determined way instead of another, and whether I liked it or not, I couldn't help but find myself agreeing with much of the points presented by the author.

With so much research backing up his claims, and still more surfacing a
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A challenging and robust examination of competition. It takes the age old, unsubstantiated rise of competitive ideology and thoroughly dismantles it and poses some very thought provoking meditations on a cooperative alternative. I found myself resisting and supporting the liberal stance on competition (some competition is ok, others are not) in the first few chapters. After Kohn sifts through the supporting arguments for competition, I was left with nothing else but empty rhetoric most likely im ...more
Jul 08, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is all about how cooperation rather than competition would benefit us greatly as a society. Kohn explains how cooperation and competition are learned behaviors and that our American society is too obssessed with competition in education, sports, and leisure activities. It was a very interesting book to read, and I enjoyed the debate between the two theories. Yet, I believe that both theories are inevitable and helpful in life and work.
Aug 06, 2009 rated it liked it
I liked the idea behind this book, but I kid you not, it took me 4 months to read. The library threatened to not let me renew it anymore. There were several insights that I enjoyed, but I had a hard time really concentrating on most of it. I'm sure if I had been able to do that, I would have liked it more and read it faster. ...more
Sue Keay
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another great book by Alfie Kohn. This tackles the evidence against competition and challenges the assumption that pervades modern society that competition is somehow "good". Reasonable and convincing, this book shows why we should strive for collaboration rather than competition to secure the best outcomes. ...more
Cathy Bogart
Good at the beginning, but as the book went on he got a bit redundant. Although he backed up his statements with research, he made it sound like all of the research supporting his point came to the same conclusions, which never happens. Also, he did one of my pet peeves - making broad generalizations.
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Yeah! Finally someone wrote a book on this. I love how he points out how competition is really more of an obstacle rather than something that helps us grow. I think it goes right along with President Benson's talk on pride. ...more
Aug 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Kohn does it again: delivers a compelling argument for raising children in a more humane, rational way. Be prepared for a tone-y read if you pick this up; I felt the information was worth the occasional annoyance.
Aug 21, 2011 marked it as to-read
I tried to read this book and though I believe in the principles of what the author is trying to say, I could not get past the dryness of the writing. I did not finish this book, so I will not rate it, but do want to say that if you get past the dryness, the points are well made.
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Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken

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“Let me note, finally, that most of the research for this book was done in the libraries of Harvard University, the size of whose holdings is matched only by the school's determination to restrict access to them. I am delighted to have been able to use these resources, and it hardly matters that I was afforded this privilege only because the school thought I was someone else.” 10 likes
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