Notes and Reflections on Books and Media
by Hannah Leitheiser
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution
Finished Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902). Kropotkin responds to Darwin's theory of evolution, but I think it is more accurately a response to theories of social Darwinism -- ideas that individuals are in struggle with each other and that the poor are unfit and it would be unwise to come to their aid, since nature wants them gone. Darwin's evolution does not preclude cooperation giving groups competitive advantage, although Darwin does predict in Origins that no organism will do something (or have some structure) without deriving at least some benefit itself.
Kropotkin reasons from observations of the Inuit of Russia, early medieval cities, and the (then modern) poor that people are generally gregarious and helpful. It is only when systems such as feudalism or classicism come into play that humans become stingy about aiding and trusting others.