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The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin

The Conquest of Bread (1892)

by Peter Kropotkin

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Well, this was interesting to look over. Especially after my big focus on Chinese authoritarian capitalism over the past few weeks.

Kropotkin advocates a unique ideology, which might now be classified as 'anarcho-communism'. This combination was jarring, from my biased American viewpoint, especially because communism is immediately associated with central planning and statism. Kropotkin, to his credit, immediately identifies some of the problems with central planned economies.

After this, he constructs his new ideal society with loving detail, moving from the basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter), to wages and the structure and distribution of goods, and education. He avoids much hard economic detail, and this book is made for mass discussion.

Now I find myself in agreement with him in more areas that I would have thought. Mechanization, technology, and planning have made many previously awful jobs much more reasonable and efficient. Women need to be brought out and made equal, of course, of course. Cooperation has worked in some fields, particularly with modern technology and the internet. I could go on about crowd-sourcing, the public domain, GNU, Creative Commons Licenses, and so forth. I agree that happy and autonomous workers are best, in terms of production, and happiness. Not to mention that there has been an empirically shown biological imperative for altruism. (see: Stephen Jay Gould's essay for further detail)

However, I confess I am distrustful that people will willingly buy into such ideas, what after the spread of the idea of rugged individualism. Or whether if people are simply good enough to willingly move over to communes, or participate in group or community thinking. Or if any moneyed interests will conspire to make such a society impossible. And this is coming from an avowed idealist/optimist. Although I'd much prefer this society to a Social Darwinist 'every man for himself' arena. Only too often have I seen evolution, a wonderful biological theory, tarnished by being used as a justification for societal misfortunes and inequalities.

Will such a utopia work? Perhaps. I'm not really sure. My inner empirical scientist wants to say 'try it out and let's see'. Perhaps that's the only way to be sure. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486478505, Paperback)

Written by a Russian prince who renounced his title, this 1892 treatise examines human needs and the economic means to satisfy them. Kropotkin rejects capitalism in favor of anarchist market economy, consisting of free, self-sufficient communes. He draws upon historic examples to illustrate his fresh, ever-relevant economic analysis.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:02 -0400)

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Written by a Russian prince who renounced his title, this 1892 treatise examines human needs and the economic means to satisfy them. Kropotkin rejects capitalism in favor of anarchist market economy, consisting of free, self-sufficient communes. He draws upon historic examples to illustrate his fresh, ever-relevant economic analysis.… (more)

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