AskDefine | Define cooperation

Dictionary Definition



1 joint operation or action; "their cooperation with us was essential for the success of our mission" [ant: competition]
2 the practice of cooperating; "economic cooperation"; "they agreed on a policy of cooperation"

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


Originated 1620–30 from Middle French cooperation, from Late Latin cooperation.



  1. The act of cooperating or being cooperative.
  2. Active help from a person, organization, et cetera.
  3. An orderly sharing of space or resources
  4. An association for mutual benefit, such as for purposes of production or purchase.
  5. An activity shared for mutual benefit.
  6. In the context of "ecology": A mutually beneficial interaction among organisms living in a limited area.
  7. In the context of "mechanical/software": Harmony in function


The act of cooperating or being cooperative
Active help from a person, organization, et cetera
  • Finnish: apu
An association for mutual benefit
  • Dutch: samenwerking
An activity shared for mutual benefit
A mutually beneficial interaction among organisms living in a limited area


pedialite cooperation
  • American Heritage 2000
  • WordNet 2003

Extensive Definition

Distinguish from Corporation.
Cooperation, co-operation, or coöperation is the process of working or acting together, which can be accomplished by both intentional and non-intentional agents. In its simplest form it involves things working in harmony, side by side, while in its more complicated forms, it can involve something as complex as the inner workings of a human being or even the social patterns of a nation. It is the alternative to working separately in competition. Cooperation can also be accomplished by computers, which can handle shared resources simultaneously, while sharing processor time.
Cooperation, more formally speaking is how the components of a system work together to achieve the global properties. In other words, individual components that appear to be “selfish” and independent work together to create a highly complex, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts system. Examples can be found all around us. The components in a cell work together to keep it living. Cells work together and communicate to produce multicellular organisms. Organisms form food chains and ecosystems. People form families, gangs, cities and nations. Neurons create thought and consciousness. Atoms cooperate in a simple way, by combining to make up molecules. Understanding the mechanisms that create cooperating agents in a system is one of the most important and least well understood phenomena in nature, though there has not been a lack of effort.
However, cooperation may be coerced (forced), voluntary (freely chosen), or even unintentional, and consequently individuals and groups might cooperate even though they have almost nothing in common qua interests or goals. Examples of that can be found in market trade, military wars, families, workplaces, schools and prisons, and more generally any institution or organisation of which individuals are part (out of own choice, by law, or forced).

Cooperation vs. competition

While cooperation is the antithesis of competition, the need or desire to compete with others is a common impetus that motivates individuals to organize into a group and cooperate with each other in order to form a stronger competitive force.
Cooperation in many areas, such as farming and housing, may be in the form of a cooperative or, alternately, in the form of a conventional business.
Many people resort to this because, they may cooperate by trading with each other or by altruistic sharing.
Certain forms of cooperation are illegal in some jurisdictions because they alter the nature of access by others to economic or other resources. Thus, cooperation in the form of cartels or price-fixing may be illegal.
A few mechanisms have been suggested for the appearance of cooperation between humans or in natural system

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Even if all members of a group would benefit if all cooperate, individual self-interest may not favor cooperation. The prisoner's dilemma codifies this problem and has been the subject of much research, both theoretical and experimental. Results from experimental economics show that humans often act more cooperatively than strict self-interest would seem to dictate.
One reason for this may be that if the prisoner's dilemma situation is repeated (the iterated prisoner's dilemma), it allows non-cooperation to be punished more, and cooperation to be rewarded more, than the single-shot version of the problem would suggest. It has been suggested that this is one reason for the evolution of complex emotions in higher life forms, who, at least as infants, and usually thereafter, cannot survive without cooperating - although with maturation they gain much more choice about the kinds of cooperation they wish to have.
There are four main conditions that tend to be necessary for cooperative behaviour to develop between two individuals:
  • An overlap in desires
  • A chance of future encounters with the same individual
  • Memory of past encounters with that individual
  • A value associated with future outcomes



External links

cooperation in Arabic: تعاون
cooperation in Catalan: Cooperació
cooperation in Danish: Samarbejde
cooperation in German: Kooperation
cooperation in Spanish: Cooperación
cooperation in Esperanto: Kooperado
cooperation in French: Coopération
cooperation in Galician: Cooperación
cooperation in Hindi: सहकार
cooperation in Italian: Cooperazione
cooperation in Hebrew: שיתוף
cooperation in Polish: Współpraca
cooperation in Portuguese: Cooperação
cooperation in Russian: Кооперация
cooperation in Simple English: Cooperation
cooperation in Serbian: Кооперација
cooperation in Swedish: Samarbete

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accompaniment, accord, accordance, advocacy, affiliation, affinity, agreement, aid, alliance, alternation, assent, assistance, association, auspices, backing, backup, battledore and shuttlecock, blessing, cahoots, chorus, co-working, coaction, coherence, coincidence, collaboration, collective farm, collectivism, collectivity, collegiality, collusion, combination, combined effort, common ownership, communal effort, communion, communism, community, commutation, companionship, company, compatibility, complementary distribution, concert, concerted action, concomitance, concord, concordance, concourse, concurrence, confluence, conformance, conformation, conformity, congeniality, congruence, congruency, congruity, conjunction, consilience, consistency, consociation, consonance, consort, conspiracy, cooperative society, correspondence, counterchange, cross fire, democracy, engagement, equivalence, exchange, favor, fellowship, fraternity, fraternization, friendship, give-and-take, harmony, help, helping hand, interaction, interchange, intercommunication, intercourse, interlacing, intermeshing, intermutation, interplay, intersection, intertwining, interweaving, interworking, junction, kibbutz, kolkhoz, lex talionis, measure for measure, membership, mesh, meshing, mutual admiration, mutual support, mutual transfer, mutuality, oneness, overlap, parallelism, parasitism, partaking, participation, patronage, peace, permutation, profit sharing, public ownership, quid pro quo, rapport, reciprocality, reciprocation, reciprocity, retaliation, saprophytism, seesaw, self-consistency, sharecropping, sharing, simultaneity, socialism, society, something for something, sponsorship, state ownership, support, symbiosis, symmetry, sync, synchronism, synergism, synergy, tally, teamwork, timing, tit for tat, town meeting, transposal, transposition, uniformity, union, unison, unisonance, united action
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