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Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (Forgotten Books) Paperback – October 15, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) was born a Russian prince, but abandoned his title at the age of twelve. He escaped from his first imprisonment and lived the bulk of his life in exile. Though he was a skilled geographer, he is most known for being an important theorist of anarchism and anarchist communism. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Forgotten Books (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160680071X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606800713
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By F. Galea on June 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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Based on his extended and close observations of nonhuman animals and humans in eastern Siberia and northern Manchuria as well as his wide reading of various scientific authors, Peter Kropotkin concludes in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution that the so-called incessant fearful "competition for food and life within each species," which is an "article of faith" with Darwinists, is in fact an exaggeration and does not play as significant a role in the evolution of new species as does the phenomenon of "mutual aid" and "mutual support."

Now it is important to note what Kropotkin does not say in order to best understand what he does say. He is not talking about the competition that exists among various species. That exists and is a factor in evolution. He is talking about competition within the same species. According to Kropotkin, competition within a species is the rare exception and not the norm in the animal kingdom and, with the exception of a few species, when it does occur within a species, it is usually under the most exigent of circumstances (e.g. scarcity of food). The norm for most species under most of their circumstances is a quasi-cooperative relationship of sociability and mutual aid. The less completion and the more mutual aid a species exemplifies, the better off that species is evolutionarily:

"The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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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Format: Paperback
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.
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