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Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

Peter Kropotkin

Book Overview: 

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution is a book by Peter Kropotkin on the subject of mutual aid, written while he was living in exile in England.Written partly in response to Social Darwinism and in particular to Thomas H. Huxley’s Nineteenth Century essay, The Struggle for Existence, Kropotkin’s book drew on his experiences in scientific expeditions in Siberia to illustrate the phenomenon of cooperation. After examining the evidence of cooperation in nonhuman animals, “savages,” “barbarians,” in medieval cities, and in modern times, he concludes that cooperation and mutual aid are as important in the evolution of the species as competition and mutual strife, if not more so. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Pierre Huber, even amongst the ants, and it is evidently the same instinct which brings together the big columns of butterflies which have been referred to already.

The habit of coming together for dancing and of decorating the places where the birds habitually perform their dances is, of course, well known from the pages that Darwin gave to this subject in The Descent of Man (ch. xiii). Visitors of the London Zoological Gardens also know the bower of the satin bower-bird. But this habit of dancing seems to be much more widely spread than was formerly believed, and Mr. W. Hudson gives in his master-work on La Plata the most interesting description, which must be read in the original, of complicated dances, performed by quite a number of birds: rails, jacanas, lapwings, and so on.

The habit of singing in concert, which exists in several species of birds, belongs to the same category of social instincts. It is most strikingly developed with the c. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Peter Kropotkin is one of the most noteworthy anarchist thinkers over the last two centuries. As with other political thinkers, so, too, with Kropotkin--his analysis of human nature is critical for understanding his overall philosophical position. For his view of human nature, "Mutual Aid" is a k...more

Kropotkin argues that mutual aid, co-operation, solidarity with one’s neighbors, sociability, have played the leading parts in human evolution, not competition. The Darwinian struggle for survival has been with the environment, not with other people. Man is not the warlike being he is claimed to...more

As clear, relevant and powerful as the day it was written; if not more desperately needed in our present day.

Mutual aid is our evolutionary heritage and ONLY path for the future. We are not meant to struggle to survive all alone but to thrive together.

Paradigm shifted.

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"Man is no e...more

Taking pretty much everything that current cultural and social thought vultures around down a couple of notches, Kropotkin makes a logical, sad-because-it-was-even-necessary argument for what biologists now call mutualism. The basic idea is simple and anyone who has ever had kids or felt even a g...more

Très instructif. L'anarchiste russe Pierre Kropotkine a écrit ce livre en 1902. Il s'agit de s'élever contre certaines des interprétations fallacieuses de la théorie de l'évolution de Darwin qui ont pu fleurir à la fin du XIXème. Ces dernières, se concentrant sur "struggle for life", la lutte pou...more

This book is made up of separate essays written over several years illustrating the natural tendency to organize around institutions of mutual aid. The essays each focus on mutual aid amongst one of the following: 1)animals 2)"savages"-primitive societies 3)"barbarians"-agrarian societies across...more

This book cannot be overestimated in importance. It was written in response to Social Darwinism (and the horrifying excuse Social Darwinism gave for mass extermination of races), based on Kropotkin's scientific experiences in Siberia concerning cooperation in nonhuman animals, as well as his stud...more

A eyeopener in today's world drunk with infallibility of individualism-in its narrow terminological sense. Kropotkin empirically debunks Darwinism, particularly social Darwinism by hundreds of examples of studies done on human societies & a range of species from the minutest of organisms to t...more

I'd only heard of him as an anarchist until I began to read about emotion & the beginnings of ethics in animals -- in such authors as Frans de Waal -- where he was always mentioned as a forerunner. One of those books sent me to Darwin Without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evo...more

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