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Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

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Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution is a book by Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, economist, geographer, author and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between...

 on the subject of mutual aid
Mutual aid (politics)
Mutual aid is a term in organization theory used to signify a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. Mutual aid is arguably as ancient as human culture; an intrinsic part of the small, communal societies universal to humanity's ancient past...

, written while he was living in exile in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It was first published by William Heinemann
Heinemann (book publisher)
Heinemann is a UK publishing house founded by William Heinemann in Covent Garden, London in 1890. On William Heinemann's death in 1920 a majority stake was purchased by U.S. publisher Doubleday. It was later acquired by commemorate Thomas Tilling in 1961...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in October 1902. The individual chapters had originally been published in 1890-96 as a series of essays in the British monthly literary magazine, Nineteenth Century
Nineteenth Century (periodical)
The Nineteenth Century was a British monthly literary magazine founded in 1877 by Sir James Knowles. Many of the early contributors to The Nineteenth Century were members of the Metaphysical Society. The journal was intended to publish debate by leading intellectuals.In 1900, the title was changed...

.

Written partly in response to Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

 and in particular to Thomas H. Huxley's Nineteenth Century
Nineteenth Century (periodical)
The Nineteenth Century was a British monthly literary magazine founded in 1877 by Sir James Knowles. Many of the early contributors to The Nineteenth Century were members of the Metaphysical Society. The journal was intended to publish debate by leading intellectuals.In 1900, the title was changed...

essay, "The Struggle for Existence", Kropotkin's book drew on his experiences in scientific expeditions in Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 to illustrate the phenomenon of cooperation
Cooperation
Cooperation or co-operation is the process of working or acting together. In its simplest form it involves things working in harmony, side by side, while in its more complicated forms, it can involve something as complex as the inner workings of a human being or even the social patterns of a...

. After examining the evidence of cooperation in nonhuman animals, pre-feudal societies, in medieval cities, and in modern times, he concludes that cooperation and mutual aid are the most important factors in the evolution of the species
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 and the ability to survive.

Discussion


Daniel P. Todes, in his account of Russian naturalism in the 19th century, concludes that Kropotkin’s work "cannot be dismissed as the idiosyncratic product of an anarchist dabbling in biology" and that his views "were but one expression of a broad current in Russian evolutionary thought that pre-dated, indeed encouraged, his work on the subject and was no means confined to leftist thinkers."

Kropotkin pointed out the distinction between the direct struggle among individuals for limited resources (generally called competition) and the more metaphorical struggle between organisms and the environment (tending to be cooperative). He therefore did not deny the competitive form of struggle, but argued that the cooperative counterpart has been underemphasized: "There is an immense amount of warfare and extermination going on amidst various species; there is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps even more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defense...Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle" Cited from Mutual Aid by . However, Kropotkin did consider cooperation as a feature of the most advanced organisms (e.g., ants among insects, mammals among vertebrates) leading to the development of the highest intelligence and bodily organization.

See also


  • Altruism
    Altruism
    Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

     and altruism in animals
    Altruism in animals
    Altruism is a well-documented animal behaviour, which appears most obviously in kin relationships but may also be evident amongst wider social groups, in which an animal sacrifices its own well-being for the benefit of another animal.- Overview :...

  • Anarchism
    Anarchism
    Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

  • Psychological egoism
    Psychological egoism
    Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly,...

  • Mutual aid
    Mutual aid
    Mutual aid may refer to:*Mutual aid , a tenet of organization theories.*Mutual aid , an agreement between emergency responders.*Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, a biology book by anarchist Peter Kropotkin...

  • Nice Guys Finish First
    Nice Guys Finish First
    Nice Guys Finish First is a 1986 documentary by Richard Dawkins which discusses selfishness and cooperation, arguing that evolution often favors co-operative behaviour, and focusing especially on the tit for tat strategy of the prisoner's dilemma game...

  • Sociobiology
    Sociobiology
    Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

  • Evolutionary psychology
    Evolutionary psychology
    Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

  • Tit for tat
    Tit for tat
    Tit for tat is an English saying meaning "equivalent retaliation". It is also a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner's dilemma. It was first introduced by Anatol Rapoport in Robert Axelrod's two tournaments, held around 1980. An agent using this strategy will initially...

  • UNESCO 1950 statement, The Race Question
    The Race Question
    The Race Question is the first of four UNESCO statements about issues of race. It was issued on 18 July 1950 following World War II and Nazi racism. The statement was an attempt to clarify what was scientifically known about race and a moral condemnation of racism...


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