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Mutual Aid

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  1,136 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
In ‘Mutual Aid’, Peter Kropotkin attacks the use of Darwinism as a social theory, arguing that cooperation is as important as competition, and had led to the highest achievements of the human race. Examining animals, indigenous societies, medieval cities, and the modern era, Kropotkin demonstrates the importance of cooperation and collective enterprise to evolution and ...more
Paperback, 236 pages
Published May 29th 2008 by BiblioLife (first published 1891)
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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 studies of savages, barbarians, the medieval city, and ourselves. This book concludes that cooperation and mutual aid are the most important factors in the evolution of the species and the ability to ...more
Jun 12, 2014 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 pour la vie, en viennent à louer l'injustice dans la société, la compétition, et la fin de la solidarité: le fameux Darwinisme social.

Non seulement c'est amoral et injuste, mais c'est déjà faux dans la Nat
Steven Peterson
Dec 17, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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 soc
Bryn Hammond
Sep 20, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Evolutionary Thought... which was totally interesting, as a lesson in how scientific understandings differ in different environments. Kropotkin wasn't on his own, but part of a Russian trend. I wish evoluti ...more
P.J. Sullivan
Oct 23, 2015 P.J. Sullivan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Darwinians
Shelves: science, philosophy
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 be. “At no period of man’s life were wars the normal state of existence.” He challenges Thomas Hobbes on his view of human nature. Primitive man always preferred peace to war, though migration was ...more
Stephie Jane Rexroth
Nov 29, 2014 Stephie Jane Rexroth rated it it was amazing
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.

"Man is no exception in nature. He is also subject to the great principle of Mutual Aid which grants the best chances of survival to those who best support each other in the struggle for life."

"The craft organizatio
Sep 03, 2015 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Europe and Asia up to feudalism 4)inhabitants of the mediaeval cities of Europe and 5)"ourselves" contemporary societies at the time of writing (at the turn of the 20th century).

I really enjoyed and got
Oct 07, 2014 Karla rated it it was amazing
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 the biggest on earth.
The book predominantly focuses on man's struggle for existence from the stone age to the dark ages, progressing on to the medieval period and finally ending with the modern times(lat
This is the edition I have. It's a reprint of the 1914 edition, and includes the preface to the 1914 edition. The book was not written as a unit--it was pieced together from essays published, in large part, in the journal The Nineteenth Century. There's a real need for a table of contents and index for this journal, which included a lot of work by prominent writers--literary criticism (some sensible, some quite absurd), philosophy, scientific work--a variety of subjects by prominent authors and ...more
Nick Klagge
Apr 01, 2014 Nick Klagge rated it liked it
I had this on my Kindle as a "backup" book for a while, because it was a free download from Project Gutenberg and I like Kropotkin pretty well (see some reviews I wrote of other books of his). I had chipped away at it piecemeal over time, on flights when I finished whatever other book I was reading and the like, but I recently went ahead and finished it (because I got a bunch of great free John Muir books as my new backups!).

This is an interesting hybrid sort of book. Kropotkin is an anarchist
Tracey Madeley
May 04, 2015 Tracey Madeley rated it really liked it
The essence of this book is about how species work together for mutual benefit, despite the Darwinian argument of competition adopted by the capitalist system.

Kropotkin argues that he does not find the bitter struggle for existence, among any other animal of the same species, except human beings. He points to Rouseau who saw love, peace and harmony in nature being destroyed by the ascendancy of man. Indeed he goes further by saying natural selection finds ways to avoid competition wherever possi
Sean Sullivan
When I used to work at Bound Together, an anarchist bookshop in San Francisco, they teased me because I had never read this book by Kropotkin (aka the anarchist formerly known as prince). The concept just seemed so basic that it didn't seem necessary to read the damn thing. Mike Menser made me read it for a class he was teaching on social philosophy. I still don't think it's really worth your time though.

Wanna know the gist? Ok, societies work just as well, no; actually they often work better th
I was expecting more from this book.... I mean, I certainly appreciated Kropotkin's claims that seemed to reject a lot of what we hear about evolution (and its applications to human societies)--ie, that, within the realm of adaptability, etc., mutual aid is as important (if not moreso) than struggle--but I feel like he certainly romanticized quite a few historical social structures that, I think, most anarchists would take issue with (ie, patriarchy, monarchy, etc.). His argument makes clear ...more
Rift Vegan
Apr 27, 2014 Rift Vegan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Such an interesting book! I was most interested (of course) in the first two sections, which are about animals. He then goes into "savages", "barbarians", the medieval city, then his current time, which was early 1900s... less interesting, but still a good *thumbs up* on this book.
Sebastian Coe
Oct 28, 2016 Sebastian Coe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kropotkin presents a wider view of what "survival of the fittest" truly means. Not intended as a refutation of Darwin's work, but rather an application of it in it's fullest context. He reminds us that modernity has brought with it a decline in human relations, but at the core human beings are primed to help each other in greater and greater ways.
Ave Timoleon
Sep 23, 2015 Ave Timoleon rated it really liked it
MUTUAL AID: A FACTOR OF EVOLUTION (1902), by Pytor Kropotkin, is a groundbreaking and at times charming work of scientific and social speculation. In the spirit of a Charles Fourier, Kropotkin advances a compelling vision of the evolutionary significance of cooperation over competition and the striking, and overlooked, role that social habits of "mutual aid" have played in the sweep of evolutionary history (both animal and human).

Nonetheless, it is also a work that sometimes repels as much as i
Nov 20, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jason by: Robert Anton Wilson in The New Inquisition
Dense, at times tediously so, but definitely worth the effort, Mutual Aid is Kropotkin's response to Social Darwinism and its simplistic reduction of the nuanced Darwinian concept of "struggle" into the narrowly individualistic, each-against-all notion of "competition." As such, it is also a valuable corrective to contemporary scientific disciplines (evolutionary psychology and neuroscience come to mind) that seek to reduce all evidence of cooperation and altruism in nature to self-centered comp ...more
Nov 23, 2014 Jaren rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tony duncan
May 07, 2008 Tony duncan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: evolution, politics
Shelves: politics, science
this is an wonderful account of an anarchist revolutionary finding support for his socvial values in nature. This book has been pretty much discarded by modern evolutionists (though with fond feelings by progressives), yet I think it has a lot of current value. it is a great counter argument to the idea that darwinism leads to "survival of the fittest" economic and political thinking.

Kropotkin was a dedicated biologist and really thought carefully about his wide ranging observations of nature. I
May 29, 2010 Zac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science fans, politically-inclined readers, creationism/intelligent design believers
I've found much to agree with and think about from the anarchists. And this work from Peter Kropotkin touches on science and evolution. It really covers ground very similar to what Richard Dawkins details most of a century later in The Selfish Gene: that cooperative behavior is a beneficial survival strategy and so any inherited traits that promote it will be favored by natural selection.

Kropotkin admits he is giving a somewhat rosy slant to his depictions of nature, and he seems wedded to a ver
Jul 20, 2015 Matty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were two related things I found much more interesting about Mutual Aid than its thesis, which felt less than airtight (for example, w/r/t the animals section, sociability is not by any means equivalent to providing mutual aid; a fish may travel in a school to minimize personal risk without any "aid" to others in the school).

First, the implication of what the intellectual background was at the time - that the struggle for existence was thought to play out primarily by means of vicious intr
Dec 05, 2015 Kyle rated it liked it

Important counterpoint to the idea that humans are inherently selfish and competitive, and that this reflects natural darwinist urges. Though avoids a lot of the colonialism of books from this era, the tendency to see human history as progressive (for Kropotkin this is the expansion of mutual aid sympathy from kin-groups to larger and larger circles) and some of the outdated terminology (Kropotkin has nothing but praise for the mutual aid exhibited by different groups but still terms them savag
Nov 16, 2015 Seth rated it really liked it
Upon completing this book, I can understand why it has the esteem it does. It is an iconic text in political science and presents a strong and well-argued rebuttal to Hobbes' state of nature concept. However, like virtually all of the leftist literature, it veers off heavily towards idealism and undermines the argument. Had Bakunin presented this as a way to explain how people in societies aid rather than fear each other it would have been a much stronger book. Unfortunately, he presents this as ...more
Dina Strange
Aug 01, 2016 Dina Strange rated it it was amazing
What an excellent book. Pyotr in about 200 pages completely dispels the notion of Western individualism, and presents facts that show that societies that based their structure on cooperation, rather than competition achieved the highest economic, scientific, and moral levels. From animals who help each other, to earlier humans who survived only because of their communal (communistic) approach to even present society where despite the inequalities created by division of wealth, the masses sill ...more
Jan 03, 2013 Laurent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darwinism is often hugely oversimplified as being simply "survival of the fittest". Generally, people assume that this phrase is followed by the word "individual". Peter Kropotkin argues convincingly that in the most successful species, individuals cooperate rather than fight each other. It should be born in mind that this is a scientific work, not a political one. Kropotkin draws on his studies in Siberia and on secondary sources to show that this phenomenon extends to human early societies, ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Kars rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Kropotkin corrects the misreading of Darwin which lead to social Darwinism by providing heaps of historical evidence of the mutual aid principle at work amongst animals and humans at every stage of development. This makes for a dry read, and I am unsure if his history stands up to current insights.

Only at a few times does Kropotkin stop providing examples and starts explaining his argument. When he does though, the book shines. His account of human nature is an optimistic one. He manages to arg
Oct 24, 2012 Ollie rated it did not like it
It's hard for me to give such a low rating to an Anarchist classic, but honestly, this book was very boring. The main idea behind the book is that cooperation increases the fitness rate of a species. Kropotkin uses some examples of ancient through modern civilizations and adds some examples for animals as well.

But honestly, the examples he gives are plentiful and boring, and his science is sketchy at best. Kropotkin might have thought that referencing everything was overkill but he was wrong. Y
Aug 21, 2007 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anarchists, socialists, evolutionary biologists
I really enjoyed reading this book. Like most of Kropotkin's work, it reads like a text book at times, and at others Kropotkin's moral drive shines through.

He covers a lot of territory in making a case against "the survival of the fittest" mentality of popular Darwinism, maybe an overwhelming amount, but in the end integrates many different fields of study to support his case of Mutual Aid being an important factor of evolution among all plants and animals.
Brendan Conner
I can't get enough; with the research of Lynn Margulis and other scientists, from endosymbiotic theory (evoutionary cell biology) to chaos theory, the age-old nonsense of T.H. Huxley and, to a lesser extent, Darwin, concerning the competitiveness or Struggle for Existence in "human nature" has to be reconsidered for hominid evolution, as well as evolutionary biology generally. The subaltern trend in sociobiology begins here, in this book, the anarchist Kropotkin's "Mutual Aid."
Skut L
Considering I first read this book in college, I'd be curious to revisit it and see how I feel. Essentially Kropotkin's argument is that societies function better when they cooperate than when they compete. He uses some scientific and historical evidence to back up his claims which had rarely been done by anarchist writers before.
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Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (Пётр Алексеевич Кропоткин) 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 O ...more
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“The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human race, that is has been maintained by mankind up to the present time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history.” 34 likes
“Don’t compete! — competition is always injurious to the species, and you have plenty of resources to avoid it!” 5 likes
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