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Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences$
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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226569871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 July 2021

Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin

Anarchist, Revolutionary, Dreamer

(p.51) 3 Peter Kropotkin
Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences

Oren Harman

University of Chicago Press

Evolution is a game of survival of the fittest, and to survive, organisms have to compete. But does competition always lead to a struggle between and within species, or can it also lead to cooperation? This was the idea advanced by Peter Kropotkin, known as a political anarchist, but in fact also a brilliant biologist. Kropotkin studied nature in the severe landscape of Siberia, and what he found differed from what contemporaries like T.H. Huxley had seen in the tropics: there was plenty of "mutual aid," or cooperation, in nature, and this, he thought, defined the natural state. Blending his view of politics and his view of nature, Kropotkin offered a stark interpretation of Darwin's evolutionary theory, one that was de-emphasized for nearly a century. With cooperation now assuming its rightful role alongside variation and selection in contemporary evolutionary theory, it is worth remembering Kropotkin and his legacy: a dream in which not only the natural world, but also our own human cultures, evolve and thrive through cooperation.

Keywords:   Peter Kropotkin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, struggle for existence, competition, cooperation, mutual aid, anarchism

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