Cooperation – Concept, types and characteristics

We explain what cooperation is and what cooperation consists of as a value. What is biological and international cooperation.

Cooperation implies that individuals share a common goal.

What is cooperation?

When we speak of cooperation, we refer to a concept applicable to many areas of human life and in general, related to the summation of efforts between several individuals or groups of individuals to achieve a common goal, from which everyone then benefits. This concept has been the object of study from various disciplines of human knowledge, such as biology, anthropology, economics, etc.

In fact, there is a Cooperation theory, developed by researchers such as Robert Axelrod and Martin Nowak, among others, which stipulates that there are four essential conditions for cooperation between two individuals to occur:

  • Wish overlap, meaning that both share an achievable goal.
  • Probability of future encounters between the two, that is, the possibility of a future relationship.
  • Positive memories of past encounters between the two individuals.
  • A value associated with future results, that is, that the result is so important that the cooperation is desirable or tolerable.

Cooperation is thus the totally opposite of competition or competition, in which two or more individuals face each other and compete for a profit.

Cooperation as a value

Cooperation - Teamwork
Cooperation fosters solidarity and teamwork.

Cooperation is, in most cultures, a social and ethical value, that is, appreciable and valued behavior. Teamwork, for example, is encouraged from an early age and throughout formal schooling, as well as being essential for the exercise of politics, for a peaceful society and even for the practice of many sports. In that sense, people with a willingness to cooperation and solidarity are often valued, perhaps because selfishness and individualism seem to be intrinsic to human nature.

Numerous ideological, political and even religious doctrines support cooperation in various areas of human life as the conduct to promote, as a way to establish dynamics of greater solidarity and greater equality of opportunities for all people. The curious thing is that, at the same time, we live in a dynamic of free commercial competition, since the capitalist system operates on the basis of sellers competing for the purchase or consumers for a scarce product.

Biological cooperation

In the natural world, cooperation is also common. It can occur between individuals of the same species or of different species, always in favor of mutual benefit, either by protecting themselves from predators, feeding back their metabolisms, exchanging defense for food, etc. Depending on the conditions in which it occurs, we can talk about:

  • Mutualism. When both species obtain benefits from their interaction, as is the case with mycorrhizae: fungi that make life between the roots of a tree, obtaining nutrients from it and granting it water reserves in return.
  • Commensalism. When cooperation is involuntary on the part of one of the two species, that is, the benefit is for only one, but does not cause any type of damage in exchange for the other. This is what happens with remoras that adhere to the shark to be transported more quickly, without causing any damage in the process.
  • Symbiosis. When cooperation is so close that it becomes practically dependent, since both organisms require the other to live. This is what happens with the bacterial flora in our intestines: hundreds of species of bacteria make life inside us and help us digest and process food, to such a degree that we could not do as well without them.

International cooperation

International cooperation
International cooperation takes place around sensitive and vital issues.

International cooperation or cooperation between countries is a form of inter-state charity, which aims to meet the needs of each in a way that benefits both of them, or that provides mutual opportunities that the rest of their international relations lack. In other words, countries, like organizations, require allies to survive, and these alliances are established through international cooperation treaties, among other pacts.

Thus, instead of competing and impoverishing the living conditions of their citizens, states can generally cooperate to establish a minimum framework of commercial, economic, social, cultural exchange or of whatever type, which does not rule out either that there exists between them a set of “free” commercial relationships, that is, of free and objective competition.

International cooperation usually occurs around sensitive and vital issues, such as humanitarian and / or ecological crises, military alliances, cooperation in legal, judicial or cultural terms, if not the construction of common laws that allow narrower degrees of mutual benefit.

Economic cooperation

Economic cooperation is a concept that encompasses various models of interaction between organizations, between States and even between individuals, to support a commercial or financial exchange with the necessary flexibility and consensus to allow and promote the strengthening of the economies of both countries. In this way, competition and damage to the other’s economy is avoided, guaranteeing, among other things, the duration of peace between both nations; remember that wars always have economic motivations behind them.

At the same time, the figure of the Cooperative is worthy of mention here, since arises from the nineteenth century as a mode of economic-productive association that, although it is for profit, does not subject its members to the rigors of market competitiveness, but instead offers a dynamic of mutual support and solidarity that escapes the dynamics ferocious of capitalism.