Mutual aid: Kropotkin’s theory of human capacity

By Ruth Kinna, ROAR Magazine

In March 1889 Peter Kropotkin agreed to give six lectures to William Morris’s Socialist Society in Hammersmith, London. Labeling the series “Social Evolution,” he planned to explore “the grounds” of socialism. As it turned out, he never delivered the talks, but the title and timing, just a year before he published his first essay on mutual aid, hint at the content. He left a bigger clue when he told Morris’s daughter May that he had been working on the series during his recent tour of Scotland. According to local press reports, one of the issues on Kropotkin’s mind was the feasibility of socialism. Perhaps rashly, given that one critic had dismissed his socialism as a futile, dangerous scheme to “reach Arcady through anarchy,” he told an Aberdeen meeting that too many workers attracted to socialism still believed it impractical. The account of social evolution he outlined in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, was a response to this skepticism and it has since become his most celebrated refutation.


Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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