On February 18, we kick off the new year with the anarchist formerly known as Prince. Peter Kropotkin was “the most systematic and profound anarchist thinker of the nineteenth century,” according to Peter Marshall.1 Geographer, theorist, and reluctant aristocrat, Kropotkin was one of the first truly international celebrities—known to the European and American publics as a brilliant scientist who just happened to hold some unconventional political views. At the time of his death, the Royal Geographic Society published an obituary that referenced Kropotkin’s politics only “to express regret that his absorption in [anarchism] seriously diminished the services which otherwise he might have rendered to Geography.”2 Notwithstanding such objections, Kropotkin’s anarchist vision is rooted in his scientism insofar as he understood his politics as directly related to his commitment to rational empiricism. How does one go about creating a society based on the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”?
Because Kropotkin is quite commonly read, we will not emphasize a specific book or selection of readings and instead attempt to address major themes. Kropotkin’s most important text on anarchism is The Conquest of Bread, in which he lays out the details of what a future society might look like. Mutual Aid is his contribution to evolutionary theory, arguing that cooperation and mutual aid among animals and humans are the most important factors contributing to the evolution and survival of species. His memoirs, serialized for The Atlantic at the time, are also superb and one can skim through his numerous and topically diverse articles.
- Kropotkin, Peter. The Conquest of Bread and Other Writings. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
- Kropotkin, Peter. Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution. St. Louis, MO: Dialectics, 2013.
- Kropotkin, Peter. Fields, Factories, and Workshops: or Industry Combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1912.
- Kropotkin, Peter. Act For Yourselves: Articles From “Freedom” 1886-1907. London: Freedom Press, 1988.
- Kropotkin, Peter. Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology. Edited by Iain McKay. New York: AK Press, 2014.
- Kropotkin, Peter. Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets. Edited by Roger N. Baldwin. New York: Vanguard Press, 1927.
- Kropotkin, Peter. Memoirs of a Revolutionist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1899.
Biographies & Secondary Analysis:
- Cahm, Caroline. Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism 1872-1886. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
- Crowder, George. Classical Anarchism: The Political Thoughts of Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin. New York: Clarendon Press, 1991.
- Dugger, William. “Veblen and Kropotkin on Human Evolution.” Journal of Economic Issues 18, no. 4 (December 1984): 971–85.
- Eddy, Beth. “Struggle or Mutual Aid: Jane Addams, Petr Kropotkin, and the Progressive Encounter with Social Darwinism.” The Pluralist 5, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 21–43.
- Gould, Stephen Jay. “Kropotkin Was No Crackpot.” Natural History 106 (June 1997): 12–21.
- J. S. K. “Obituary: Prince Kropotkin.” The Geographical Journal 57, no. 4 (1921): 316–19.
- Kinna, Ruth. “Fields of Vision: Kropotkin and Revolutionary Change.” SubStance 36, no. 2 (2007): 67–86.
- Marshall, Peter. “Peter Kropotkin: The Revolutionary Evolutionist.” In Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, 309–38. New York: PM Press, 2010.
- Morris, Brian. Kropotkin: The Politics of Community. Amherst, MA: Humanity Press, 2004.
- Oved, Ya’Acov. “The Future Society According to Kropotkin.” Cahiers Du Monde Russe et Soviétique 33, no. 2/3 (1992): 303–20.
- Purchase, Graham. Evolution and Revolution: An Introduction to the Life and Thought of Peter Kropotkin. Sydney: Jura Books, 1996.
- Shpayer-Makov, Haia. “The Reception of Peter Kropotkin in Britain, 1886-1917.” Albion 19, no. 3 (1987): 373–90.
- Slatter, John. “P. A. Kropotkin on Legality and Ethics.” Studies in East European Thought 48, no. 2/4 (1996): 255–76.
- Woodcock, George, and Ivan Avakumovic. The Anarchist Prince. New York: Schocken Books, 1950.
The funeral of Peter Kropotkin, February 1921—the last public showing of anarchism in revolutionary Russia before the Bolsheviks crushed the remnants of the movement.
A short BBC segment on Kropotkin.
February 18, 2015 @ 7:00 PM
CUNY Graduate Center
Department of Political Science
365 5th Ave. Room 5200.07
New York, NY 10016
1. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (New York: PM Press, 2010), 309.↩
2. J. S. K. “Obituary: Prince Kropotkin.” The Geographical Journal 57, no. 4 (1921): 317.↩