Prince Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin (1842-1921) is well-known to Western scholars as a leader of the international anarchist movement and as the author of Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. One is tempted to see his ideas about cooperation in nature as the simple product of the strongly-held political convictions with which they were so compatible.
This temptation, however, reveals as much about the marginality of mutual aid theories in Europe and the United States as it does about the actual origin of Kropotkin’s views. Kropotkin first questioned Darwin’s approach to the struggle for existence while exploring Siberia as a youth and was an accomplished and celebrated naturalist years before his political views crystallized. Furthermore, as we have seen in Chapter 5, his ideas about cooperation in nature were quite common among Russian naturalists of varying political perspectives.