Monday, 27 February 2017

Peter Kropotkin (9/12/1843-8/2/21) - On Mutual Aid

Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist prince, was one of a handful of prominent theoreticians of liberty over the last two centuries.
His viewpoint is firmly rooted  in the anarcho-Communist camp and can be summarised briefly in classical terms  "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.'
Most of his thinking on the nature of society was formed when he was observing the behaviour of animals in Siberia. While assigned to a Siberian regiment of the Russian military, Kropotkin did innovative and original work on geography and geologyand stages of animal behaviour. His experiences in Siberia also led him away from a confidence in the ability of the state to do anything useful for people.
His experiences also laid  the foundations of Mutual Aid  probably his most famous work, which was also written as a specific responce to Thomas Henry Huxley's The Struggle for Existence in Human Society , from 1888.
What follows is a wonderful passage from Kropotkin's seminal work which remains as relevant today as to when it was originally written :-

" It is not love to my neighbour - whom I often do not know at all - which induces me to seize a pail of water and rush towards his house when I see it on fire, it is a far wider, even though more vague feeling or instinct of human solidarity and sociability which moves me . . . . It is not love, and not even sympathy which induces a herd of ruminants or of horses to form a ring in order to resist an attack of wolve; not love which induces wolves to form a pack for hunting; not love which induces kittens or lambs to play, or a dozen of species of young birds to spend their day together in autumn. It is a feeling infinitely wider than love or personal sympathy - an instict that has been slowly developed among animals and men in the course of an extremely long evolution, and which has taught animals and men alike the foce they can borrow from the practice of mutual aid and support, and the joys they can find in  social life . . . .
  Love, sympathy and self-sacrifice certainly play an immense part in the progressive development of our moral feelings. But it is not Love  and not even sympathy upon which Society is based in mankind. It is the  conscience - be it only at the stage of an instict - of human solidarity. It is the unconscious recognition of . . . the close dependency of every one's happiness upon the happiness of all; and of the sense of justice, or equity, which brings the individual to consider the rights of every other individual an equal to his own."

Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, 1902

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