Economia Politica

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 785–804 | Cite as

Productive and unproductive competition: a unified framework

  • Alice Guerra
  • Barbara LuppiEmail author
  • Francesco Parisi


Conventional theories of competition classify contests as being either “productive”, when the competitive efforts generate a surplus for society, or “unproductive”, when competition generates no social surplus and merely distributes already existing resources. These two discrete categories of competition create a division of real-world situations into analytical categories that fails to recognize the entire spectrum of competitive activities. Taking the existing models of productive and unproductive competition as benchmark idealizations, this paper revisits the relationship between the privately and socially optimal levels of competition in the full range of intermediate cases, as well as in the extremum cases of destructive and super-productive competition.


Contests Rent seeking Unproductive competition Productive competition Patent races 

JEL Classification

C72 D72 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business and PoliticsCopenhagen Business SchoolCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Economics, School of Law and University of BolognaUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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