The Anarcho-Utopian Views of Peter Kropotkin

By Sergey Saytanov

When in the late XIX – early XX centuries anti-state ideas became especially popular, Peter Kropotkin created his own anarchist theory of social development [Saytanov, 2014]. In its completed form, it was developed by Kropotkin, primarily in the work The State: Its Historic Role, which later became part of the well-known work Modern Science and Anarchism, and in the book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. At the same time, Kropotkin was always convinced that it was impossible to determine in advance precisely, in all details the course of the future evolution of society. “Life will break any conceptual scheme”; he spoke about this as early as 1873 in the program he created for the Tchaikovsky Circle [Markin, 1992: 42].

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Kropotkin’s Idea of the Free Commune

This is a brief text about Kropotkin’s idea of the Commune. I’m writing this because far too often I’ve read people talking about Kropotkin’s Commune who completely misunderstand it. I can not be sure but I think the crux of the misunderstanding lies in reading Kropotkin’s enthusiasm towards the medieval commune as an endorsement of it. In fact, and this is exactly what we’ll see in this post, Kropotkin opposed to the medieval commune what he called the Free Commune or the Communist Commune. Let’s begin.

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Mutual Aid: An Alternative to Power

By Tom Pewton

Introduction

Michel Foucault claimed that “power is everywhere”. It underlies our society and can be seen as the major driving force behind our social institutions and relationships. The novelty of Foucault’s work is that he makes power ‘active’, it is no longer an entity that is possessed by a person or groups but it “traverses the entire social body” and “comes from below”. We are all involved in ‘power relations’ to which we reinforce, resist or submit. Consequently, he argues that we must study where it is exercised, whom it is exercised over, as well as its techniques, aims and effects. In his genealogy of power, these will be revealed in the societal ‘blocks’ that he studies; medicine, military, education, sexuality and the penal system. The study of power relations, evident in these blocks, reveals key characteristics; repression, domination, authority and ‘normalisation’. 

Despite agreeing with Foucault that power plays a major role, the concern I address here is that it cannot explain all facets of society. Alongside power relations we also find ‘mutual aid’. Petr Kropotkin gave a history of this relation and the characteristics he identifies as belonging to this are cooperation, support, sacrifice and solidarity. He writes; “it is a feeling infinitely wider than love or personal sympathy. An instinct that has been slowly developed among animals and men in the course of an extremely long evolution.” Reflecting on Foucault’s illustration of power, even here we find mutual aid. Within the penal system is the idea of justice and morality; in sexuality is love, kinship and the continuation of the species. Just as power is ‘active’, traverses the social body and is a relationship that we all find ourselves involved in, likewise is mutual aid. 

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