Recently, I attended a lecture given by Gloria Steinem where she mentioned how many of the native and traditional cultures of the world valued cooperation. In these cultures, instead of playing competitive games or sports, they would play games that encouraged the whole group to cooperate and coordinate. She also mentioned how the culture of competition is such relatively recent in human history, and very centered within just European and American culture.
This got me to thinking.... in the introductory and intermediate microeconomic theory courses, students study a few basic models of markets: monopoly, oligopoly, and competition. Further, we learn that competition is "the best" because it maximizes consumer surplus, and we all get what we want at the price we are willing to pay. But what about cooperation? Why aren't coopeative market or firm models included in this material? Cooperation between groups, cooperatives, and groups of cooperatives- what I don't mean by that is a state controlled market.
What I am trying to describe here is something drawn off of something in game theory, I guess. An idea to consider would be the prisoner's dilemna, where the competitive and self-interested strategy (defect, defect) would end up resulting in a Nash equilibrium. But if a cooperative strategy were to be played instead, the players would have both higher individual payouts as well as a higher total payout. This shows the inefficiency of competition and self-interest, and that cooperation could provide a better alternative for both individual and community well-being.
I tried searching for some literature on the idea of a "cooperative market", however at a glance I was only able to find utopian socialist views on this. I am interested in knowing whether or not a robust market model could be developed using the idea of cooperation, which for so long allowed traditional native societies and cultures to develop and thrive. I am certainly aware of the successes worker cooperative models have had for firms, and I am wondering if there is a complete cooperative model that takes a more individualist approach and possesses the kind of "elegance" that the micro models of competition have. Suggestions for further reading would be welcomed.