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Kropotkin: 'The Conquest of Bread' and Other Writings (Working Classics Series #4)

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  891 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Peter Kropotkin's most detailed description of the ideal society embodies anarchist communism and the social revolution that was to achieve it. This edition's introduction traces his evolution as an anarchist, from his origins in Russian aristocracy to his disillusionment with the Russian Revolution.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 10th 1995 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1892)
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Well, this was interesting to look over. Especially after my big focus on Chinese authoritarian capitalism over the past few weeks.

Kropotkin advocates a unique ideology, which might now be classified as 'anarcho-communism'. This combination was jarring, from my biased American viewpoint, especially because communism is immediately associated with central planning and statism. Kropotkin, to his credit, immediately identifies some of the problems with central planned economies.

After this, he cons
Sean Mccarrey
This book was thoroughly disappointing, especially after reading Memoirs of a Revolutionist, which was an incredible book. This book however, was pretty much a 279 page rant about what a perfect society would look like, and what was wrong with the industrialized world at that time, rather than how these things could realistically be achieved. One reason for this is, as Kropotkin points out, was that these anarchist ideals could be achieved rather easily once some great revolution had occurred. ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Kropotkin highlights his observations of existing economic systems and a decentralisation of such particularly capitalism and elements of feudalism. He shows how such systems though claiming to be ideal actually encouraged continued poverty and resources scarcity. He also mentions that some revolution must occur in order for there to be change...

As stated in his opening, "The human race has travelled a long way, since those remote ages when men fashioned their rude implements of flint and lived
Apr 22, 2012 Tinea rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tinea by: Brandon (and others)
Uplifting, light, and truly enjoyable! While I stand by an earlier assertion that best way to learn about anarchism nowadays is through radical permaculture ecologists and intersectional women of color feminists, I was surprised to find The Conquest of Bread is really worth reading, too. In terms of your old white European male anarcho-communists, Kropotkin is the go-to guy; I'd put him ahead of Emma Goldman for timid students of anarchist theory, since he focuses more on practicalities and visi ...more
Dana Garrett
In the Conquest of Bread Peter Kropotkin sketches his vision of how an anarchist communist society might work. He sees it organized as divided up into agricultural and industrial communes federated together for mutual benefit. Diversity of activities would dominate the workday as people would, when capable, achieve competence in a variety of trades. The workday for necessities would be short because Kropotkin believes that the agricultural and industrial capabilities exist to create post scarcit ...more
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Treads some of the same ground as "Fields, Factories and Workshops", definitely worth a read. Again, Kropotkin impresses me with his prescience about so many of the issues that we grapple with today. What follows below is less of a review than it is a collection of quotations:

As a frequent teacher of thermodynamics, I appreciated (and will attest to) his statement that the field was first really "invented" by the engineers, and only turne
Nick Klagge
Reading this book was a strange experience for me. From what I had read about Kropotkin before picking up the book, I had expected I'd really like it--critique of capitalism, Communism without the state, warm and fuzzy anarchism. But while I thought Kropotkin made a number of incisive points, I came away from CoB feeling wholly unconvinced. Part of it may be the 100+ year time gap: Kropotkin writes for a society that is largely organized around agriculture and industrial manufacturing, and while ...more
Kropotkin is a great writer. Also, there is way too much content in this, and it is way too late for me to review it in any detail. Just some things off the top of my head. This is a much better book for understanding Kropotkin's anarcho-communism than Mutual Aid, is, although I think Mutual Aid is a better book overall. He espouses some proto-knowledge problem stuff and refutes the Marxist labor theory of value. He makes a big point in the early chapters of stressing that humanity is extremely ...more
An amazingly clear and down-to-earth text for one trying to pronounce an entirely alternative form of social organization. I had harbored somewhat negative connotations of Kropotkin prior to this (not really sure where they came from), and so found myself pleasantly surprised. In general, the book serves as a reminder of the principles that classical political economy is founded upon, and how different economic theory can look if we challenge those principles by focusing not only on the ways tha ...more
Kropotkin gives a rational and well-supported, if still somewhat naive, apology and vision for anarchist communism, starting with the question of what people need, and how society can best fulfill those needs. He carefully lays out calculations for the amount of land and labor necessary to feed populations of various sizes, and stresses the importance of healthy, stimulating work to the health of the population. He identifies the ills of current society stemming not only from capitalist exploita ...more
Mario García
Dec 11, 2012 Mario García rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who doesn't understand how the world works and how ignorant are we about the recent past
Recommended to Mario by: My good judgment
This is one of those books which help you understand who is a good reader and who is not. Not because it is particularly difficult, but because some people lacks proper attention to detail. Nonetheless, before I go on, let me take one or two things off my chest.

Many people has identified this book as an utopia, but it is quite curious for me that they didn't even read:
we, "the utopian dreamers", we shall have to consider the question of daily bread

We have already had too much of Jacobin Utop
Pierre Kropotkine, aristocrate russe ému par l'injustice des sociétés européennes d'il y a un siècle livre dans ce livre ses réflexions quand aux solutions qu'il imagine pour soulager la misère des classes ouvrières, lors de cette première mondialisation économique. La hauteur de ses aspirations morales, la justesse et la mesure dont il fait preuve le font grandement estimer, quoique l'on puisse éprouver quelques dissentiment sur tel ou tel point de ses analyses. Il ne perd jamais de vue la fina ...more
This was an interesting book that I picked up wanting to learn more about Kropotkin himself. The approach that he represents might be best described as anarcho-communist, but this is not entirely pie in the sky. He sets out reasonable assumptions and describes how to fulfill them. It does require a paradigm shift (ie look at need rather than production and a we're all in this together from the perspective of a lifeboat viz. you don't ask for the qualifications of the fellow boaters, you just giv ...more
Brendan Conner
The book is an account of Kropotkin's 'anarchist communist' program as it is set apart from those of Alexander Berkman and Errico Malatesta, for instance. Kropotkin's inductive method, for the social sciences, presents the reader with the possibility of large-scale decentralization, but, in a unique take, Kropotkin claims decentraization has in fact already happened despite the fact that the media and books of history, haven't noticed. "Three hundred and fifty million Europeans love or hate one ...more
A must-read for anyone interested in anarcho-communism, not only an important book in its ideological development but also a great argument in its own right. A lot of the book is obviously outdated, and slogging through the figures can be a bit much, but the rational an not emotional nature of the writing lends credence to Kropotkin's theories. It's interesting that Kropotkin uses "anarchism" and "communism" interchangably here, given what disparate, slap-fighting camps they've become. There's a ...more
Proposal and FAQ for why the Revolution should lead to an Anarchist Communist state, that individuals freed from Capitalism (the source and cause of poverty in the modern world) are entirely capable of self-organizing and delegating and negotiating without a corruptible State overseer. Optimistic and Idealistic and a little Cranky, not bad.
Though Kropotkin was clearly writing for a different century, his basic principles are sound, and the effect of his writing is to show that, with a little thought and imagination, alternate and more just ways of organizing society are indeed possible. We are so saturated with capitalistic assumptions that we have to create space to consider other options. In many ways, Kropotkin is immensely practical; the title of the book refers to the fact that any revolution must quickly solve the issue of " ...more
A seemingly much-ignored classic--Kropotkin here lays out the specifics of 'the ideal society,' where labor-time would be vastly reduced, everyone would have necessities provided for, and leisure time would be greatly maximized so as to allow for the greater cultivation of self and community. I, for one, saw many of Kropotkin's claims here echoed in later anarchist works, esp. in those of Ursula Le Guin and Murray Bookchin. Highly recommended--certainly a more constructive account of politics/ ...more
Kropotkine's Conquest of Bread is one of the most important yet underrated political/economy books ever written, essential to the literate anarchist (are there other ones? most who call themselves anarchist are in reality nihilists).

The book exposes how with the advent of industrialization there are surplus means of achieving a just and plentiful society, where no one starves and no one lives in poverty, all this with a minimal and communitarian government.

One of those reads that leaves you wond
Nick Adamson
Soooo good. So good. The librivox version is poorly read. I think they need a new reading. Hm. HMM.
Imprescindible para iniciarse en la lectura de los clásicos anarquistas.
"The study of the needs of mankind, and the means of satisfying them with the least possible waste of human energy"

Clear, comprehensive and to the point.

This text was written more than a hundred years ago and arguably some of its ideas are either outdated, unrealistic or simply wrong.

Still, the book is so well-written, passionate, positive and inspiring, and many of the things covered here are still so relevant today that I cannot recommend it enough.

A must for anyone interested in other ways of
Alyssa Miller
"But, if plenty for all is to become a reality, this immense capital—cities, houses, pastures, arable lands, factories, highways, education—must cease to be regarded as private property, for the monopolist to dispose of at his pleasure.

This rich endowment, painfully won, builded, fashioned, or invented by our ancestors, must become common property, so that the collective interests of men may gain from it the greatest good for all.

There must be Expropriation. The well-being of all—the end; exprop
This book was simply amazing it really opened my eyes about the ideas of anarchocommunism
Possibly the most vital text on Anarchist-Coummunism, The Conquest of Bread not only critics the current capitalist system it also gives a fair critic of traditional Marxist conceptions. Kropotkin explains his ideas and how they could look in society and also responds to criticisms of Anarchist-Communism. Although some of the data is now outdated the validity of his claims must still be seriously considered in the modern world.
Kropotkin was one of those rare thinkers whose empathy and compassion were as boundless and far-ranging as his intellect. Although his social, economic, and political vision is incredibly utopian, and further problematized by the technological and political-economic developments of the past century, his core ethical principles and observations on the best aspects of social psychology are perhaps more relevant than ever.
Jonathan Noe
Dec 16, 2010 Jonathan Noe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anarcho-Communists
I thought Peter Kropotkin's faith in humanity to reorganize according anarchist communist principles was not only inspiring but also condemning to those who proclaim greed and self-interest as humanity's primarmy motivator. He used real life examples to show how the ideals of anarchist communism have and always will exist in society no matter how individualistic those within that society claim to be.
I don't have to agree with every idea discussed in this book for it to be one of the most informative reads I've ever seen. It's an eye opener, equally hope-giving and depressing, and I'm not going to stress about the fun I had drawing comparisons between "luxuries" at the author's time and ours because it was just me being silly and childish.
You know all those questions folx have about how social (collective) anarchism would work?
Koropotkin answers those questions in "Conquest Of Bread" with examples of everyday 19th century life.
Find and read the book online:
Conquest of Bread
Martin Bassani
Some interesting insights but mostly utopian nonsense.
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Anarchist & R...: [Feb/Mar] The Conquest of Bread - Kropotkin 10 68 Jun 17, 2012 02:44PM  
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  • Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
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Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a geographer, a zoologist, and one of Russia's foremost anarchists. One of the first advocates of anarchist communism, Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government. Because of his title of prince, he was known by some as "the Anarchist Prince". Some contemporaries saw him as leading a near perfect life, including Oscar Wilde, who described hi ...more
More about Pyotr Kropotkin...

Other Books in the Series

Working Classics Series (4 books)
  • What Is Anarchism?
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice
  • Post-Scarcity Anarchism
Mutual Aid Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings Memoirs of a Revolutionist La Morale anarchiste Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow

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“The means of production being the collective work of humanity, the product should be the collective property of the race. Individual appropriation is neither just nor serviceable. All belongs to all. All things are for all men, since all men have need of them, since all men have worked in the measure of their strength to produce them, and since it is not possible to evaluate every one's part in the production of the world's wealth.
All things are for all. Here is an immense stock of tools and implements; here are all those iron slaves which we call machines, which saw and plane, spin and weave for us, unmaking and remaking, working up raw matter to produce the marvels of our time. But nobody has the right to seize a single one of these machines and say, "This is mine; if you want to use it you must pay me a tax on each of your products," any more than the feudal lord of medieval times had the right to say to the peasant, "This hill, this meadow belong to me, and you must pay me a tax on every sheaf of corn you reap, on every rick you build."
All is for all! If the man and the woman bear their fair share of work, they have a right to their fair share of all that is produced by all, and that share is enough to secure them well-being. No more of such vague formulas as "The Right to work," or "To each the whole result of his labour." What we proclaim is The Right to Well-Being: Well-Being for All!”
“We hold further that Communism is not only desirable, but that existing societies, founded on Individualism, are inevitably impelled in the direction of Communism. The development of Individualism during the last three centuries is explained by the efforts of the individual to protect himself from the tyranny of Capital and of the State. For a time he imagined, and those who expressed his thought for him declared, that he could free himself entirely from the State and from society. "By means of money," he said, "I can buy all that I need." But the individual was on a wrong tack, and modern history has taught him to recognize that, without the help of all, he can do nothing, although his strong-boxes are full of gold.” 1 likes
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