This book is written as counterargument against people who embraced Darwin’s theory in the most primitive way possible: in the line with Hobbes’ wars of everybody against everybody else with survival of winner (fittest). The main idea of this book is that not war, but rather cooperation of everybody with everybody, which allows individual organisms to survive continuing struggle with environment for acquisition of necessary life resources. The book is filled with examples of cooperation real or perceived from all points of biological specter from ants to contemporary humans.
This book presented as illustration and justification of idea that mutual support is much more important then struggle for survival of individual. The main point is made that author could not see examples of life and death struggle between individuals while at the same time stressing environmental causes of survival’s difficulties. Eventually author comes up with “Law of Mutual Aid” stating that it is an important factor in evolution not appreciated by followers of Hobbes.
MUTUAL AID AMONG ANIMALS
These two chapters represent a long list of animals doing something together that author considers being a mutual aid. This list includes just about all animals known to biologists of XIX century from ants to lions. The examples reviewed:
• Ants and Bees
• Birds, hunting and fishing associations. Sociability. Mutual protection among small birds. Cranes, parrots.
• Migrations of birds. Breeding associations. Autumn societies.
• Mammals: small number of unsociable species. Hunting associations of wolves, lions, etc. Societies of rodents; of ruminants; of monkeys.
• Mutual Aid in the struggle for life and Elimination of competition in Nature.
CHAPTER III and IV MUTUAL AID AMONG SAVAGES
The same logic that was used for congregation of animals in groups is used for primitive human societies known at the time with the same inference: individuals are not fighting each other all the time, but rather cooperate in acquisition of means of survivals. The humans obviously add a lot of complexity if compared to animals bringing in notion of ownership both individual and group over various parts of nature: territory, water, cattle, and such. Author also reviews the phenomenon of war and private property, but seems to be treating it as aberration. Examples provided: Bushmen and Hottentots, Australians, Papuans, Eskimos, and Dayak.
CHAPTERS V and VI MUTUAL AID IN THE MEDIAEVAL CITY;
Author reviews history of society development in Europe with the same objective: to stress examples of mutual aid as rejection of struggle of individual against individual. However it seems that all examples he provides apply more to the in-group cases, rather then abstract help: Towns and Guilds, Development of trade and legal system; mutually beneficial relationships between lords, towns, and peasants.
CHAPTERS VII and VIII MUTUAL AID AMONGST OURSELVES
Final two charters describe contemporary for author (end of XIX century) situation of struggle between state and village-community organizations of society. Obviously as anarchist he opposes state and loves communities and all forms of mutual aid from cooperative businesses and self-insurance groups to unions and other mutual help associations.
MY TAKE ON IT
As usual I have a difficult time to understand why people do not see the obvious fact that humans live in complex multidimensional world and themselves are complex multidimensional entities. The evolutionary theory does not suggest that individual organism survives in battle with other individual organisms of the same type. It does not even depend on scarcity of resources. All that it says is that organisms which survive long enough to pass on their genes to next generation do pass these genes to next generation with all their features whether beneficial, detrimental, or neutral, while organisms that fail to pass their genes to the next generation would not have their features represented in nature after that. From this point of view the typical notion: ”survival of the fittest” is obviously incorrect. It should be “survival of minimally fit and sufficiently reproductive”. The method of fitness fully depends on environment, which includes not only individual organism itself but also other organisms around and not necessary of the same species. In this view both cooperation with and war against other organisms are just tools that organism uses to achieve its objectives defined by its genes and environment so the infinite number of examples could be found for all tools and their variations and combinations: cooperation, aid, war, extermination, and anything else conceivable.