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Mutual Aid Review


Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin


Mutual Aid is written against the view of social Darwinism. Contrary to popular belief, evolution is not all about the strong killing the weak in a brutal game of survival. While nature is certainly brutal, evolution often favors species who show empathy and cooperation with each other.


Genres

Nonfiction, history, biology


Description

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 of Social Darwinism. It also cites persuasive evidence of human nature's innate compatibility with anarchist society.


Review

The opening chapters show how animal species thrive when members work together and take care of each other. Then the author shows how early human societies functioned in this manner. Many societies, from indigenous cultures to early medieval villages before the rise of serfdom, have functioned without a “state” in the way we think of it, and managed to make great leaps in science and culture.


The book presents an alternate way of structuring society, and shows how biology upholds this idea as being natural for humans, contrary to the idea that humanity is at its heart greedy and selfish.


It’s an uplifting read, and a necessary one, since “human nature” is used to excuse too many atrocities. This shows how humanity is wired for kindness and cooperation, and how evolution favors it over brutal competition. Helping each other will ultimately benefit society much greater than constant competition.

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