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Paperback Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution Book

ISBN: 0486449130

ISBN13: 9780486449135

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

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Book Overview

In this cornerstone of modern liberal social theory, Peter Kropotkin states that the most effective human and animal communities are essentially cooperative, rather than competitive. Kropotkin based this classic on his observations of natural phenomena and history, forming a work of stunning and well-reasoned scholarship. Essential to the understanding of human evolution as well as social organization, it offers a powerful counterpoint to the tenets...

Customer Reviews

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An early view of the evolution of cooperation

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 analy¬sis of human nature is critical for understanding his overall philosophical position. For his view of human nature, "Mutual Aid" is a key for understanding his views. His work is a harbinger of more recent studies of sociobiology, many of which explore the roots of altruism--human and otherwise. Much of his thinking on the nature of society was formed when he was observing the behavior of animals in Siberia. While assigned to a Siberian regiment of the Russian military, Kropotkin did innovative original work on geography and geology as well as the study of animal behavior. His observation of animals led him to respond to Huxley's assertion that natural selection was based on keen com¬petition among animals with the following statement: ". . .wherever I saw animal life in abundance, as, for instance, on the lakes where scores of species and millions of individuals came together to rear their progeny; in the colonies of rodents; in the migration of birds which took place at that time on a truly American scale along the Usuri; and especially in a migration of fallow-deer which I witnessed on the Amur, and during which scores of thousands of these animals came together from an immense territory, flying before the coming snow, in order to cross the Amur where it is narrowest--in all these scenes of animal life which passed before my eyes, I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to an extent which made me suspect in it a feature of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species, and its further evolution." He synthesized his observations of animals within a species cooperating with one another and concluded that, in the struggle for life, cooperation was at least as important as competition. Kropotkin did not argue that competition was unimportant in the natural selection process. However, he did emphasize that mutual aid was a factor that many Darwinists (although, as Kropotkin made clear, not Darwin himself) ignored. The data that Kropotkin utilized came from many different animal species. Kropotkin goes on to speculate about the survival value of cooperative behavior. He states that: "Life in societies enables the feeblest insects, the feeblest birds, and the feeblest mammals to resist, or to protect themselves from, the most terrible birds and beasts of prey; it permits longevity; in enables the species to rear its progeny with the least waste of energy and to maintain its progeny with the least waste of energy and to maintain its numbers albeit a very slow birth rate; it enables the gregarious animals to migrate in search of new abodes. Furthermore, cooperation facilitates the development of intelligence, since that quality is so important for social life among animals." Kropotkin is not content to rest his case at this point. He su

Shredding our cultural bias about nature

Anarchist classic, rooted in observation of natural phenomena and history. Challenges the conception that capitalism is a natural progression of Darwinism at work in the wild. The author cites numerous examples of compassion and innate goodness at work outside the bounds of a structured power-based society. The study covers cooperation among animals, instances of non-hierachical interactions from primitive tribes to mediaeval cities, and on to his contemporary labor unions. It has been some years since I read it and I plan to revisit this title soon.

Required bio reading

This book, which appears to be about the only surviving scientific text from Kropotkin's work, is very interesting and insightful. The first two chapters which deal with animals I found most interesting, because they address the roots of the falsehood of social-darwinism. Kropotkin then proceeds to move through the different stages of human society and describes the mutual aid a compassion fetures therein. It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. It is a scientific text, but it has major political implications and is very accessible.

Mandatory for any interested in any humanity or science.

This book shows how Darwin's findings were all too influenced by Malthus and were a direct reflection of the Capitalistic political area he was from. Kropotkin witnessed in Siberia that animals rather than competing to stay alive, had to work together to stay alive.Kropotkin stresses that cooperation is the main factor in evolution, not competing forces that Darwin and his contemporaries thought. Kropotkin gives a number of examples of inter and intra-species working together to survive and thus evolve.Kropotkin explores a number of societies. Steven J. Gould has given credence to Kropotkin, yet he is largely ignored in evolution texts.This book changed the way I think about evolution and helped me to realize how a study as influencial as Darwin's could be biased.

An essential counterpoint to Darwin's "The Origin of Species

After groping for years - haphazardly, I admit - through almost every progressive, liberal, libertarian, and anarchist zone of political discourse, I stumbled across a reference to Mutual Aid and its author, (Prince) Petr Kropotkin. Like Darwin, Kropotkin spent considerable time in a part of the world not frequented by civilized folk; instead of a tropic isle, though, Kropotkin spent his time in Siberia. There he saw and was impressed by something Darwin had discounted (assuming he ever noticed it) - co-operation, rather than competition. In some cases it was the family, taking the place fo the individual in the scheme of species survival; in others, it took the form of symbiotic relationships between individual members of different species. Like Darwin, Kropotkin was intellectually stimulated by his observations in natural philosophy - but in exactly the opposite direction. I recommend "Mutual Aid" to anyone exhausted by the competitve paradigm and looking for a valid alternative. I'm writing this after ordering two more copies of MA - one to replace the one I lost, another to lend. Eric C. Sanders
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