Agonism (from Greek ἀγών agon, “struggle”) is a political theory that emphasizes the potentially positive aspects of certain (but not all) forms of political conflict.

By agonism is meant a behavior organized according to cultural models of competitive self-assertion and for which lived experience is fundamental. In fact, the child elaborates aggressiveness on the basis of educational patterns experienced in the family and proposed by the environment as models of competitive action.

Since from the third childhood (from 6 years old onwards) the need to compare and measure oneself with others increases, sport plays a particular role as a mediator of emotions and motivational drives related to the desire for success. In fact, through the competitive experience, the child improves, in general, the levels of self-esteem by becoming aware of their own limits and their own abilities. The situation-stimulus of confrontation (with oneself, with an adversary, with time, etc.), can offer the youngster an experience of approval and personal success, increasing his willingness to engage more and more in competitive activities.

Competitiveness achieves its true educational objective when the child’s initial desire for aggressive affirmation is transformed, in the youngster, into a motivational drive that seeks confrontation with the adversary in order to verify one’s own abilities and the validity of programming.

In pedagogy, the tendency to emulation innate in the child. Ancient educators already took this into account, such as Plutarch who, in his Lives, wanted to propose great models to young people in order to spur their agonistic will. But the assumption of agonism as a true and proper educational method was made by the Jesuit Ratio studiorum (16th century). Since then, in many schools, the students were divided into teams (Greeks against Persians, Romans against Carthaginians) fighting for cultural, artistic and ethical supremacy. The problem of prizes and punishments spontaneously descended and the agonistic one kept the misunderstandings. Agonism would exasperate individualism according to some; for others it is the most effective stimulus for learning.

Leave a Comment