Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

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Ramona
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Jan 24 2005 17:02
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

Ok, has anyone read this and can give me brief run down of what exactly he was getting at?

I'm mean to be giving a presentationon it on Thursday and there's no way I'm going to have read it all by then...

Mike Harman
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Jan 24 2005 17:18

Read tiny bits and read a few people talking about it, have a copy on my shelf waiting for me with loads of other stuff, so can't be much help.

But the whole thing as far as I understand it was that BOTH competition between species (so not really anti-darwinian) and co-operation within species are major factors of evolution. Co-operation within species being the overall most important indicator of survival. Ants and humans good examples.

More interestingly, what's the presentation for?

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Ramona
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Jan 24 2005 17:40

I'm studying anthropology and I'm doing a course on economic anthropology. I have to talk about kropotkin to my class but it's ok cos no one else had heard of him and my tutor is kinda hazy on the details so I can pretty much wing it.

Thanks tho, that's kinda what I'd gleaned form reading the conclusion on the wikipedia entry but in easier language embarrassed 8)

lucy82
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Jan 24 2005 18:11

try pm ing capt mission. he used to do anthropology and he has a brain the size of a planet. hes read books and everything as opposed to me who just moans on about having been poor all the time.

cry wink

AnarchoAl
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Jan 24 2005 18:15

Have you seen this?

"Kropotkin Was No Crackpot" - Stephen Jay Gould (for those who don't know he's like the American version of Richard Dawkins)

http://www.marxists.org/subject/science/essays/kropotkin.htm

"As the title suggests, Kropotkin argues, in his cardinal premise, that the struggle for existence usually leads to mutual aid rather than combat as the chief criterion of evolutionary success. Human society must therefore build upon our natural inclinations (not reverse them, as Huxley held) in formulating a moral order that will bring both peace and prosperity to our species. in a series of chapters, Kropotkin tries to illustrate continuity between natural selection for mutual aid among animals and the basis for success in increasingly progressive human social organization. His five sequential chapters address mutual aid among animals, among savages, among barbarians, in the medieval city, and amongst ourselves."

[...]

"This Russian school of Darwinian critics, Todes argues, based its major premise upon a firm rejection of Malthus's claim that competition, in the gladiatorial mode, must dominate in an ever more crowded world, where population, growing geometrically, inevitably outstrips a food supply that can only increase arithmetically. Tolstoy, speaking for a consensus of his compatriots, branded Malthus as a "malicious mediocrity.""

[...]

" Kropotkin begins by acknowledging that struggle plays a central role in the lives of organisms and also provides the chief impetus for their evolution. But Kropotkin holds that struggle must not be viewed as a unitary phenomenon. It must be divided into two fundamentally different forms with contrary evolutionary meanings. We must recognize, first of all, the struggle of organism against organism for limited resources--the theme that Malthus imparted to Darwin and that Huxley described as gladiatorial. This form of direct struggle does lead to competition for personal benefit.

But a second form of struggle--the style that Darwin called metaphorical--pits organism against the harshness of surrounding physical environments, not against other members of the same species. Organisms must struggle to keep warm, to survive the sudden and unpredictable dangers of fire and storm, to persevere through harsh periods of drought, snow, or pestilence. These forms of struggle between organism and environment are best waged by cooperation among members of the same species-by mutual aid. If the struggle for existence pits two lions against one zebra, then we shall witness a feline battle and an equine carnage. But if lions are struggling jointly against the harshness of an inanimate environment, then lighting will not remove the common enemy--while cooperation may overcome a peril beyond the power of any single individual to surmount."

HTH.

Garner
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Jan 25 2005 11:53

Yeah, what AnarchoAl and Catch said.

Mutual Aid was basically a reaction to Huxley's take on Darwinism, which overemphasised intra-specific competition and 'survival of the fittest'. Darwin actually talked about cooperation too, but Kropotkin expanded on it, as well as highlighting the continuity between cooperation in animals and cooperation within human societies.

I guess if you're interested in the anthropology side of it you can safely ignore the chapter about mutual aid among animals and skip to the various human societies. If you skim it you can probably find plenty of good examples to use in your presentation (although some of them were probably bullshit, so you might have to check that they haven't been debunked).

I'd recommend The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley too - similar subject matter but from a much more up-to-date evolutionary perspective. Explains how selfish genes can make us altruistic.

captainmission
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Jan 25 2005 16:14

from a anthropological view point not sure how well mutal aid will go down. Its socioboligical and evoluntionist, not things that are very popular in anthropological circles. Kropotkins bit on human societies (savages and barbarians and the like), like most anthropology of that period, isn't going to have much validity today. Also got to ask is a sociobological arguement more acceptable cos it reaches 'left-wing' conclusions? Usually the sort of people that wouldn't touch sociobiological theroy with a barge pole become a lot more receptive when its co-operation that's programmed in to us not competion. Bookchin makes a similar point, saying that mutal aids important as a work highlighting symbios and interdependce in ecology rather than as a work of sociology.

Quote:
Jay Gould (for those who don't know he's like the American version of Richard Dawkins)

considering the two were quite bitter intellectual oppents, i'm not sure they'd haved like that discription. smile

Quote:
But a second form of struggle--the style that Darwin called metaphorical--pits organism against the harshness of surrounding physical environments, not against other members of the same species.

not sure it a simple distinction as that. The abotic physical environment is produced as a result of interaction with the biotic evolutionary world. Everyting from the chemical content of the atmosphere, the salinty of the oceans to rain fall pattern is a result ecological impact of life. So any attempt to pit the external 'environment' against the speciies makes little sense. if you want there is 'co-operation' between the as one interacts with the other to make the physical environment more ameanable to life.

beanis
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Jan 25 2005 16:19

wooooooooo

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Jacques Roux
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Jan 25 2005 16:21
captianmission wrote:
Kropotkins bit on human societies (savages and barbarians and the like), like most anthropology of that period, isn't going to have much validity today.

Surely like everything else 'tis the historical validity that we are interested in...

beanis
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Jan 25 2005 16:22

arghhhhh

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Jan 25 2005 16:23

I only ever skimmed Mutual Aid, but one thing that stood out about it from that skimming and other mentions of it was that Kropotkin emphasised evolution taking part at the level of species rather than Dawkins' later more convincing argument that evolution takes place at the level of the gene - I think Kropotkin centred on "group selection", the now debunked view that evolution can select genes for organs or behaviors that are good for the group but bad for the individual by acting on the differential survival of groups and species. Whereas Dawkins argues that it biological heredity takes place at the level of the gene ie. those genes that infer an advantage on individuals will occur more frequently in fuutre offspring.

Garner
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Jan 25 2005 16:38

Yeah, but to be fair Kropotkin (or anyone else at the time) wouldn't have known shit about how genes work, beyond basic Mendelian inheritance. And a lot of his examples could probably be applied at the gene level rather than the group level and still make sense.

But as I said before, you'd be better off reading Ridley for the actual biology - Kropotkin's interesting for historical reasons and coz he was an anarchist.

captainmission
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Jan 25 2005 16:42

im just saying how this sort of argument will likely be recieved in anthropology today. The early history of anthropology is ignored cos of it's association with colonalism and racism. That's why mot anthroplogy course will start with teaching malinowski, the first 'proper' ethnographer, everything before that becomes its own primitive pre-history. Its important for anthropology's construction of its own identity to make sure these things have no validity. Its histrocial validity might be of interest if you writing about the develpoment of sociobological theroy or lniks between evolutionary theory and politics, but in relation to econmic anthropology think the links are quite tenuous.

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Choccy
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Jan 25 2005 16:45
Garner wrote:
Yeah, but to be fair Kropotkin (or anyone else at the time) wouldn't have known shit about how genes work, beyond basic Mendelian inheritance. And a lot of his examples could probably be applied at the gene level rather than the group level and still make sense.

But as I said before, you'd be better off reading Ridley for the actual biology - Kropotkin's interesting for historical reasons and coz he was an anarchist.

aye I wasn't having a pop at Kropotkin or anything, I realise Kropotkin was important for that time, just that for a anthroplogy presentation now that it might be worth mentioning improvements on the theory.

Anarchoanorak
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Jan 26 2005 01:14

Isn't Brian Morris still at your uni? Brilliant lecturer, fund of knowledge and quite keen on Kropotkin if i remember rightly. Try and have a chat with him if he's still about. Interesting, clever bloke and very sweet too.

Yes, you guess it, i'm the sec of his fan club. embarrassed Obviously not much help for the asignment with time being so short.

Garner
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Jan 26 2005 11:53

Granted a lot of Mutual Aid is anecdotal and some of it's a bit stretched, but would you care to explain how it's

Jack wrote:
contrary to darwin and accepted science

?

Garner
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Jan 26 2005 12:28

A bit of a tangent, but I've just come across a couple of articles that are kind of relevant.

Chimps have 'sense of fair play'

Monkeys show sense of justice

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Jan 26 2005 18:30

brian Morris is still around at my uni, but only part time smile

As far as kropotkin and anthropology today goes, well yeah they did start off teaching us Malinowski, but atm we're doing a course about the political history of anthropology and different ways of thinking about the State, lots of fun fun Rousseau, Morgan, Engels and funilly enough Kropotkin. Malinowski etc started the whole cultural relativism ball rolling, but before that the emphasis was much more on trying to work out human universals and how come people had become unequal etc.

So whilst it's not an anthropological text in the strictest of terms, and is evolutionist etc, it's more the ideas he had and how they fit into the history of thought about society and "the nature of man" and stuff.

And anyone, it was my department that told me to read it so I at least hope they won't then tell me it's invalid! grin

Thanks everyone for the input tho smile

captainmission
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Jan 26 2005 20:15

if your doing about the state there's alot of stuff interesting from an anarchist prespective on state fetishism by micheal taussig. The magic of the state and some of the stuff in the nervous system is really good, as is navarho-yasins faces of the state.

Thora
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Jan 27 2005 00:44

I like "please do my homework for me because I'm a lazy student" threads. Mutual aid in action? wink

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Ramona
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Jan 27 2005 20:02

Lazy?!?! I've been in college from 10am till 7pm with one 30 min break and now I'm home I have to do another three hours reading at least!!! Lazy my arse.

Anyway, yr only working part time so I'm not having that from you.

tongue grin wink