Peter Kropotkin Ecologist, Philosopher and Revolutionary - Graham Purchase

The Problem Investigated: This thesis is conceived as: [1] a work of scholarship and exegesis [2] an examination of more recent scientific works which use similar metaphors or concepts, eg. Cooperation, that are central to Kropotkin's thinking. As a work of scholarship and exegesis this thesis is an attempt to present the many areas/dimensions of Kropotkin's philosophy and thinking in a systematic way.

I do not believe that this has been attempted previously in any language. Although his political, social and economic theories have generated a substantial secondary literature, Kropotkin's scientific works and philosophy of science, with the exception of his famous book, Mutual Aid, have received virtually no attention. In consequence of this the emphasis of this work will be upon his scientific writings. However, his political writings will also be examined as well as related to his broad scientific outlook. In addition to evaluating Kropotkin's scientific works in relation to his period I also discuss them in relation to contemporary debates. Although not strictly true, the second half of this thesis is not a work of historical scholarship but an attempt to bring together the ideas of scientists that in one way or another support a Kropotkinesque characterisation of natural processes. Although Kropotkin is often rightly regarded as a founder of modern environmentalism, this is difficult to substantiate from his purely political and social writings. Thus I will attempt to present the core concepts of Kropotkin's anarchism in a coherent and succinct way with an emphasis upon showing how they relate to contemporary debates and perspectives within the environmental movement. The Procedures Followed: The thesis will be introduced biographically. This seemed the best way to introduce Kropotkin's works to the reader and place them in relation to one another and in their historical context. Thus the primary purpose of this historical section is to contextualise the great diversity of works by Kropotkin. As I do not have a science background, but also for reasons of clarity, the remainder of the analysis shall be based upon the least technical and most accessible scientific literature in the various disciplines investigated. I will begin by systematically collecting, cataloguing and analysing both Kropotkin's works as well as the secondary literature and then proceed to make some overall sense of them and then relate them to contemporary debates upon process and organisation in nature and society. The General Results Obtained: My research has revealed a large body of scientific work by Kropotkin. My analysis of them shows that he had a deep understanding of the role of mutualism, symbiosis, dynamism, group and social behaviour etc., in relation to physical and biological processes. His ideas, although necessarily containing errors, are broadly, as well as in many detailed aspects, consistent with the findings of professional, though often unorthodox, scientists of the present day. The main faults of Kropotkin's approach was a fundamental failure to appreciate the role of territories and hierarchies in animal groups and his excessive progressivism. My research also reveals how Kropotkin's social vision, although somewhat utopian, can be sympathetically interpreted in terms of modern environmentalist perspectives. The Major Conclusions Reached: Kropotkin's diverse works in science and social theory when presented systematically reveals that he is a philosopher of considerable interest in respect to both contemporary and historical debates concerning sociality and its influence upon the evolution of life on Earth

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Nov 17 2014 00:15