A Losing Game: Clarifying and Informing Debates on Positional Competition

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This paper takes issue with the widespread claim that positional competitions are zero-sum games. It shows how the notions of ‘positional good’ and ‘positional competition’ have changed in meaning and how this has resulted in conceptual confusion in discussions amongst economists and philosophers. I argue that the Zero-Sum Claim is hardly ever true when it comes to the novel understanding of positionality that currently dominates the philosophical literature. I propose dropping the Zero-Sum Claim and construing positional competitions as win-lose. This is conceptually clearer and deepens our understanding and ethical evaluation of these important competitions in contemporary societies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalSocial Theory and Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Positional Competition
  • Positional Good
  • Zero-sum
  • Win-lose
  • Income
  • Status

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