Mutual Aid

An Illuminated Factor of Evolution

An illuminated edition of Kropotkin’s famous Mutual Aid was not something I thought I wanted, but the illustrations here are very lovely, as is the introduction from David Graeber and Andrej Grubacić. Originally published around 1902, the essays here follow Kropotkin’s thinking and observations of mutual aid among animals, in preindustrial societies, in medieval cities, and among his contemporaries. His thesis is that it is mutual aid, cooperation, and solidarity—rather than competition—that permit evolution and survival among the species, both humans and more-than-humans. He proves this point over and over with abundant examples, until, as Graeber and Grubacić point out, “the entire game of Darwinists now is to find some reason, any reason, to continue to insist that even the most playful, loving, whimsical, heroically self-sacrificing, or sociable behavior is really selfish after all.” The fact that, over one hundred years later, most of us still operate under the assumption that competition is necessary and normal is both a challenge and an opportunity.