Uniformity is death: Human nature, variety, and conflict in Kropotkin's anarchism

2016-07-26T10:59:52Z (GMT) by Matthew S. Adams
Peter Kropotkin is often accused of advancing a narrowly optimistic vision of human nature to support his anarchist politics. His faith in the possibility of establishing non-hierarchical society, it is argued, is founded on his depiction of humans as naturally cooperative. However, Kropotkin’s critics assert that his vision of human nature is naïve and fails to take into account humanity’s egotistical impulses. This paper takes issue with such interpretations. First, it is suggested that these readings fail to treat Kropotkin’s thought as a synthetic whole, focusing narrowly on a select number of texts. Taking a broader view of Kropotkin’s oeuvre, the argument here is that Kropotkin was conscious of the importance of selfish instincts and presented human behaviour as defined by a perpetual clash of these forces. Finally, it is argued that Kropotkin saw the value conflict generated by these clashes as socially beneficial and vital to a post-capitalist society. Instead of basing his politics on a view of human nature, it is concluded that Kropotkin’s anarchism should be seen as advancing an image of a stateless society complete with mechanisms aimed at maximising liberty and maintaining cohesion.