Skip navigation

The Core Curriculum

Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, by Peter Kropotkin, 1902 CE.

Cover art for Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, designed by Nancy Brigham for Extending Horizons Books/Porter Sargent edition, c. 1976.

In his Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, the Russian anarchist and naturalist Peter Kropotkin uses examples from both non-human animals and human society to show that cooperation, not competition, is the most important factor promoting the survival of organisms and therefore the evolution of species.  Kropotkin is writing in response to an essay by Thomas Huxley (“The Struggle for Existence”) rather than to Darwin’s own work.  How does Kropotkin’s insistence on cooperation as an evolved trait compare with Darwin’s remarks on sympathy and ‘moral consciousness’ in Chapters 2 and 3 of The Descent of Man


Image via, full text of Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902) at Project Gutenberg at

Artistic Response
Access Level: 
Licensed for Public Use