Peter Kropotkin Essay

This essay has a total of 2393 words and 11 pages.

Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin was a major anarchist thinker of the 19th century. His ideals have spread
worldwide and have greatly influenced many of today's political structures. His passionate
vision has been a major influence many controversial wars and political debates around the
globe. He was a fearless revolutionary with an intense desire for change. Kropotkin's
strong example is one we should all make an effort to follow as we are now approaching new
changes within the 21st century.

Kropotkin's Life
While researching further on Kropotkin's life, I discovered that he was not exactly raised
as I would expect from such a radical anarchist thinker. In fact, I gained more respect
for him when I learned that he was born into a noble family and had the willingness to
give up his riches in search for his own truth. I found some interesting facts about his
life in Kropotkin - the Master, by Herbert Read.

Peter Kropotkin was born in Moscow where he was the medieval Grand Prince of Kiev. He
owned nearly twelve hundred male serfs in three different providences, housed about fifty
servants in Moscow, and twenty-five more out in the country. He was a good master to his
people and had the tendency even as a young boy to persistently fight for the less
fortunate. When he was fifteen he entered the Corps of ages at St. Petersburg, a military
academy consisting of only select noble children. After graduating from St. Petersburg, he
became an officer in Siberia and was the elected secretary for both the reform of the
prisons, and for preparing a scheme of municipal self-government. In Siberia and was
brought into contact with many different social characters. He became quite rebellious
through his interactions and resigned from the army in 1872 to become a geographer and
anarchist carrying his extreme philosophies through Russia. He was eventually imprisoned
in Russia and soon escaped to Western Europe where he began a publication called, Le
Revolte, until he was imprisoned again in France around 1882. They released him in 1885
after many protests from writers, scientists, and philosophers. He then spent about thirty
years writing many books including, The Conquest of Bread, Mutual Aid, Memoirs of a
Revolutionist, and Fields, Factories and workshops, during which he lived in the Hull
House in Chicago and eventually moved back to Western Europe.

Kropotkin's Utopian Ideals
Kropotkin had an articulate understanding of the role of law and authority within
civilization. He believed that the education and imagination of the mind was expected to
be the foremost important focus upon the individual personality, then upon communities,
and ultimately upon the entire civilized world. His focus was on the moral well-being of
each species that inhabits this earth in order to create an ideal utopian civilization.

Kropotkin's utopian ideal consisted of individual distinction that is created by each
person who is willing to earn it. His experiences ranged from an upper class noble to the
prison slums, and because of his wide range of influence he was able to see from many
different perspectives and come to personal realizations that many are unable to
experience. "He was brought into contact with men of all descriptions: the best and the
worst; those who stood at the top of society and those who had vegetated at the very
bottom - the tramps and the so-called incorrigible criminals." (Anonymous 3), he believed
that it is not only our capacity to see from personal perspectives, but also to see from
the perspectives of the community at large. To recognize how this relationship deepens our
culture of understanding. "Of the many ways in which humans differ from animal, the most
interesting - from the standpoint of law and economics - is that we, as individuals, not
only can but must stand in the shoes of others, and can and must see the world from
others' standpoints." (Johnson 1)

Kropotkin came to realize during his noble reign that unless the serfs who operated under
him were able to obtain their liberty and become his equals the estate they were living on
would not be competently managed. Realizing this, he concluded that unless serfdom was
abolished, the entirety of Russia could never prosper and truly be happy. He believed that
the lifetime of abuse inflicted upon many of the lower class would spiritually cripple
their inner psyche, preventing them from using their full potential imagination and

He understood the sporadic employment of the working class and the fact that their lives
were in the hands of the banks, landowners, and industrialists who in turn provided
inadequate means for living. This resulted in many workers who turned to prostitution,
crimes against property, and other unethical means of living.

I believe Kropotkin's understanding of the lower class is quite amazing considering the
lifestyle that he was raised with. I have utmost respect for his ability to adapt and
penetrate the truth from different perspectives. This versatility has proven to be a major
contributing factor for his expansive understandings of the working class and their trials
and tribulations. I believe Kropotkin's social status allowed him to impose greater
influence in all levels of affluence.

Kropotkin on Crime
The conception of crime and its origins is an important factor that Kropotkin was able to
evaluate and consider in his writings. He believed that there are two main causes for
crime. The first was the social order that depended on the distribution of wealth among
the classes and the fact that the impoverished were deprived of certain commodities, which
then led to the inevitable consequence of crime due to the amount of law inflicted upon
the individual. He described the fact that the upper classes are in the position to set
definitions for all crimes, thus implying that crimes originate from the law and that new
categories are invented as the moment applies. He argued that if there was no economic
pressure most of these actions, classified as crimes, would not occur.

The second cause of crime based on Kropotkin's theories is the moral degradation imposed
upon the working class by an upper class that creates unnecessary difficult conditions.
Meaning that the social arrangements are such that an impoverished person would be
expected to fail from the beginning of his or her life due to the conditions that are
imposed upon them. Kropotkin regards this demoralization as the worst of all social evils.
He states that the crimes of violence, which occur among the working class, such as
assault, rape, murder, robbery, etc., are mainly attributed to the living conditions of
the working class.

I believe this theory presents questions as to whether social theorists can safely say
that the poor are only part of a vast group of citizens that are merely infected with
unfavorable genes or whether our current social norms have caused us to veer farther off
our path toward a more utopian society. Kropotkin argues that any potential problems that
are occurring in the present must be viewed with positive solutions for the future, that
the social norms do not constitute problems until we reach a stage in our evolution that
allows us to see more clearly from other perspectives thus allowing us to make necessary

Kropotkin as a Transcendentalist
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