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Taking Pyotr Kropotkin Seriously : Darwinism, Anarchy and Science

AuthorsGirón, Álvaro CSIC ORCID
KeywordsTaking Pyotr Kropotkin
Issue Date2011
PublisherUniversidad de Valencia
CitationMètode Annual Review (1) : 20-26 (2011)
AbstractPerhaps for some, this late support for the neo-Lamarckian thesis, illustrates in the best way possible the extent to which Kropotkin is another case showing how extra-scientific concerns lead some great minds to fall into flawed reasoning. It relates to a way of seeing things not only in a simplistic way, but basically in an erroneous way; it is the result of an anachronism. Kropotkin’s anarchism did not lead him to uphold peculiar ideas, but to defend approaches widely shared by an important sector of the community of biologists of the times in which he lived. Not only had criticism for the theories of Weismann become widespread in France and in Germany itself, it was Mendelism itself –to which Kropotkin had not attached particular importance– that was not considered a credible tool in explaining the global phenomenon of heredity. Something similar can be said of his theory of mutual aid. Anthropomorphism? Certainly not greater than that of Darwin himself. In reality, Kropotkin’s naivety does not cease to be a retrospective illusion. An illusion fuelled by the fact that both in science and politics he aligned himself on the side that ended up as the loser. It is possible that in a less sectarian time, both in science as in politics, we would get closer to evaluating his persona in other terms. Meanwhile, if one wishes to understand some of the post-Darwinian debates of the last decades of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is time to take Kropotkin seriously.
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