Intellectual Legacy: Cooperation and Competition
edited by: Peter T. Coleman
Perhaps Morton Deutsch’s greatest legacy is his theory of social interdependence. Based on the previous theorizing of Kurt Koffka and Kurt Lewin, Deutsch’s formulation of the theory of cooperation and competition brought conceptual clarity to an area full of confusion and contradictions. It is well-formulated, summarizing complex observations in abstract, logically-related propositions that explain causal relationships. Deutsch could not have taken on a much more difficult task, focusing on dynamic, relationship variables that apply across all levels of human interaction. He formulated a middle-range theory that subsumes many other social psychological theories. His social interdependence theory, furthermore, is an example of how psychological theorizing and research have resulted in valuable practical applications and how theory, research, and practice interact in ways that enhance all three. Social interdependence theory has generated hundreds of research studies that validated its basic propositions and considerably expanded its scope. Finally, it is a useful theory, have served as a basis for the creation of cooperative learning and the structuring teams in business, industry, and other settings. This combination of theory, research, and practice makes social interdependence theory somewhat unique and one of the most important aspects of Morton Deutsch’s legacy.