chapter  11
8 Pages

Conclusion: A Living Tradition

Reclus, Kropotkin, and Grave can be grouped as having shared basic ideas for ‘Society on the Morrow of the Revolution.’ Post-Darwinian evolutionary science, which had only lightly touched the ideas of Bakunin, contributed profoundly to the ethical underpinning of the economic ideas of Reclus, Kropotkin, and Grave. The notion of ‘mutual aid’ was given scientific credibility by these thinkers, especially Kropotkin and Reclus. Its presence in human society was a reflection of the ‘mutual aid’ which had already existed in human society in history and which had been seen at close range by Proudhon in Lyon a half century before Kropotkin wrote it into his version of evolutionary scientific theory. The notion had informed Proudhon’s ‘mutualism’ and later it had informed the economic arguments in favour of freely-formed communal groupings. It was a scientifically justified ‘social instinct.’ Reclus, Kropotkin, and Grave expanded from that conceptual base into extensive thinking and prescriptive ideas about a future communitarian anarchist society. Grave sketched a future society in considerable detail. Finally, amongst the historical actors in this study, Leo Tolstoy developed from a different source a nevertheless similar ethic of mutual aid (‘mutual service’). Tolstoy first distilled his prescriptions for human society down to the level of basic subsistence and sought amongst the peasantry the source of a meaningful life. He practiced what he preached with respect to manual labor and in turning away from the oppression which he saw as being inherent in the state and economic pressures which accompanied it. His discussion of economic ideas approached or echoed those of Proudhon and Kropotkin especially, in many important ways.