Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

If we take now the teachings which can be borrowed from the

analysis of modern society, in connection with the body of

evidence relative to the importance of mutual aid in the

evolution of the animal world and of mankind, we may sum up our

inquiry as follows.

In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of

species live in societies, and that they find in association the

best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in

its wide Darwinian sense -- not as a struggle for the sheer means

of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions

unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which

individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and

the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development,

are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the

most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is

obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and

of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development,

and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance

of the species, its extension, and its further progressive

evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to


Going next over to man, we found him living in clans and

tribes at the very dawn of the stone age; we saw a wide series of

social institutions developed already in the lower savage stage,

in the clan and the tribe; and we found that the earliest tribal

customs and habits gave to mankind the embryo of all the

institutions which made later on the leading aspects of further

progress. Out of the savage tribe grew up the barbarian village

community; and a new, still wider, circle of social customs,

habits, and institutions, numbers of which are still alive among

ourselves, was developed under the principles of common

possession of a given territory and common defence of it, under

the jurisdiction of the village folkmote, and in the federation

of villages belonging, or supposed to belong, to one stem. And

when new requirements induced men to make a new start, they made

it in the city, which represented a double network of territorial

units (village communities), connected with guilds these latter

arising out of the common prosecution of a given art or craft, or

for mutual support and defence.

And finally, in the last two chapters facts were produced to

show that although the growth of the State on the pattern of

Imperial Rome had put a violent end to all medieval institutions

for mutual support, this new aspect of civilization could not

last. The State, based upon loose aggregations of individuals and

undertaking to be their only bond of union, did not answer its

purpose. The mutual-aid tendency finally broke down its iron

rules; it reappeared and reasserted itself in an infinity of

associations which now tend to embrace all aspects of life and to

take possession of all that is required by man for life and for

reproducing the waste occasioned by life.

It will probably be remarked that mutual aid, even though it

may represent one of the factors of evolution, covers

nevertheless one aspect only of human relations; that by the side

of this current, powerful though it may be, there is, and always

has been, the other current -- the self-assertion of the

individual, not only in its efforts to attain personal or caste

superiority, economical, political, and spiritual, but also in

its much more important although less evident function of

breaking through the bonds, always prone to become crystallized,

which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State

impose upon the individual. In other words, there is the

self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element.

It is evident that no review of evolution can be complete,

unless these two dominant currents are analyzed. However, the

self-assertion of the individual or of groups of individuals,

their struggles for superiority, and the conflicts which resulted

therefrom, have already been analyzed, described, and glorified

from time immemorial. In fact, up to the present time, this

current alone has received attention from the epical poet, the

annalist, the historian, and the sociologist. History, such as it

has hitherto been written, is almost entirely a description of

the ways and means by which theocracy, military power, autocracy,

and, later on, the richer classes' rule have been promoted,

established, and maintained. The struggles between these forces

make, in fact, the substance of history. We may thus take the

knowledge of the individual factor in human history as granted --

even though there is full room for a new study of the subject on

the lines just alluded to; while, on the other side, the

mutual-aid factor has been hitherto totally lost sight of; it was

simply denied, or even scoffed at, by the writers of the present

and past generation. It was therefore necessary to show, first of

all, the immense part which this factor plays in the evolution of

both the animal world and human societies. Only after this has

been fully recognized will it be possible to proceed to a

comparison between the two factors.

To make even a rough estimate of their relative importance by

any method more or less statistical, is evidently impossible. One

single war -- we all know -- may be productive of more evil,

immediate and subsequent, than hundreds of years of the unchecked

action of the mutual-aid principle may be productive of good. But

when we see that in the animal world, progressive development and

mutual aid go hand in hand, while the inner struggle within the

species is concomitant with retrogressive development; when we

notice that with man, even success in struggle and war is

proportionate to the development of mutual aid in each of the two

conflicting nations, cities, parties, or tribes, and that in the

process of evolution war itself (so far as it can go this way)

has been made subservient to the ends of progress in mutual aid

within the nation, the city or the clan -- we already obtain a

perception of the dominating influence of the mutual-aid factor

as an element of progress. But we see also that the practice of

mutual aid and its successive developments have created the very

conditions of society life in which man was enabled to develop

his arts, knowledge, and intelligence; and that the periods when

institutions based on the mutual-aid tendency took their greatest

development were also the periods of the greatest progress in

arts, industry, and science. In fact, the study of the inner life

of the medieval city and of the ancient Greek cities reveals the

fact that the combination of mutual aid, as it was practised

within the guild and the Greek clan, with a large initiative

which was left to the individual and the group by means of the

federative principle, gave to mankind the two greatest periods of

its history -- the ancient Greek city and the medieval city

periods; while the ruin of the above institutions during the

State periods of history, which followed, corresponded in both

cases to a rapid decay.

As to the sudden industrial progress which has been achieved

during our own century, and which is usually ascribed to the

triumph of individualism and competition, it certainly has a much

deeper origin than that. Once the great discoveries of the

fifteenth century were made, especially that of the pressure of

the atmosphere, supported by a series of advances in natural

philosophy -- and they were made under the medieval city

organization, -- once these discoveries were made, the invention

of the steam-motor, and all the revolution which the conquest of

a new power implied, had necessarily to follow. If the medieval

cities had lived to bring their discoveries to that point, the

ethical consequences of the revolution effected by steam might

have been different; but the same revolution in technics and

science would have inevitably taken place. It remains, indeed, an

open question whether the general decay of industries which

followed the ruin of the free cities, and was especially

noticeable in the first part of the eighteenth century, did not

considerably retard the appearance of the steam-engine as well as

the consequent revolution in arts. When we consider the

astounding rapidity of industrial progress from the twelfth to

the fifteenth centuries -- in weaving, working of metals,

architecture and navigation, and ponder over the scientific

discoveries which that industrial progress led to at the end of

the fifteenth century -- we must ask ourselves whether mankind

was not delayed in its taking full advantage of these conquests

when a general depression of arts and industries took place in

Europe after the decay of medieval civilization. Surely it was

not the disappearance of the artist-artisan, nor the ruin of

large cities and the extinction of intercourse between them,

which could favour the industrial revolution; and we know indeed

that James Watt spent twenty or more years of his life in order

to render his invention serviceable, because he could not find in

the last century what he would have readily found in medieval

Florence or Br?gge, that is, the artisans capable of realizing

his devices in metal, and of giving them the artistic finish and

precision which the steam-engine requires.

To attribute, therefore, the industrial progress of our

century to the war of each against all which it has proclaimed,

is to reason like the man who, knowing not the causes of rain,

attributes it to the victim he has immolated before his clay

idol. For industrial progress, as for each other conquest over

nature, mutual aid and close intercourse certainly are, as they

have been, much more advantageous than mutual struggle.

However, it is especially in the domain of ethics that. the

dominating importance of the mutual-aid principle appears in

full. That mutual aid is the real foundation of our ethical

conceptions seems evident enough. But whatever the opinions as to

the first origin of the mutual-aid feeling or instinct may be

whether a biological or a supernatural cause is ascribed to it --

we must trace its existence as far back as to the lowest stages

of the animal world; and from these stages we can follow its

uninterrupted evolution, in opposition to a number of contrary

agencies, through all degrees of human development, up to the

present times. Even the new religions which were born from time

to time -- always at epochs when the mutual-aid principle was

falling into decay in the theocracies and despotic States of the

East, or at the decline of the Roman Empire -- even the new

religions have only reaffirmed that same principle. They found

their first supporters among the humble, in the lowest,

downtrodden layers of society, where the mutual-aid principle is

the necessary foundation of every-day life; and the new forms of

union which were introduced in the earliest Buddhist and

Christian communities, in the Moravian brotherhoods and so on,

took the character of a return to the best aspects of mutual aid

i n early tribal life.

Each time, however, that an attempt to return to this old

principle was made, its fundamental idea itself was widened. From

the clan it was extended to the stem, to the federation of stems,

to the nation, and finally -- in ideal, at least -- to the whole

of mankind. It was also refined at the same time. In primitive

Buddhism, in primitive Christianity, in the writings of some of

the Mussulman teachers, in the early movements of the Reform, and

especially in the ethical and philosophical movements of the last

century and of our own times, the total abandonment of the idea

of revenge, or of "due reward" -- of good for good and evil for

evil -- is affirmed more and more vigorously. The higher

conception of "no revenge for wrongs," and of freely giving more

than one expects to receive from his neighbours, is proclaimed as

being the real principle of morality -- a principle superior to

mere equivalence, equity, or justice, and more conducive to

happiness. And man is appealed to to be guided in his acts, not

merely by love, which is always personal, or at the best tribal,

but by the perception of his oneness with each human being. In

the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest

beginnings of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted

origin of our ethical conceptions; and we can affirm that in the

ethical progress of man, mutual support not mutual struggle --

has had the leading part. In its wide extension, even at the

present time, we also see the best guarantee of a still loftier

evolution of our race.