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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival of the most cooperative, 6 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science) (Paperback)
This book is meant as a criticism to survival of the fittest understanding of evolution, it does not deny that survival of the fittest happens but suggests that things are more complex and that in many/most cases the environment is a bigger danger to animals than other creatures, this results in creatures (especially of the same species) helping each other to survive and actually seeking to avoid completion unless they have no choice.

Examples given of mutual aid include packs of dogs working together to catch prey and looking after their wounded, parrots living together in groups and searching for food while others act as lookouts.

Some examples of avoiding competition such as in the winter animals hibernate or fly to warmer areas rather than fight with each other over what little food is around.

After talking about mutual aid among animals it goes on to talk about mutual aid in various human societies. Starting with tribes such as the Bushmen "they used to hunt in common, and divided the spoil without quarrelling; that they never abandoned their wounded, and displayed strong affection to their comrades."

"Eskimo life is based upon communism. What is obtained by hunting and fishing belongs to the clan. But in several tribes, especially in the West, under the influence of the Danes, private property penetrates into their institutions. However, they have an original means for obviating the inconveniences arising from a personal accumulation of wealth which would soon destroy their tribal unity. When a man has grown rich, he convokes the folk of his clan to a great festival, and, after much eating, distributes among them all his fortune."

With Aborigines the hunting land is communal as is the proceeds from hunting. Old, weak and sick are looked after not abandoned, they are very friendly but shocking some are cannibals. But even the cannibals have mutual aid! Oh the shame to think cannibals are more compassionate than us!

Mutual aid among "Barbarians", medieval cities and modern life (1902 at time the book was written) is also covered.

Reading old books such as this(1902) can sometimes be a shock as sexism, racism and other things frowned upon nowadays can be quite common, although this book is free of such things it does call certain tribes savages and barbarians which I presume was common at the time.

An interesting side note is that Richard Dawkins has got very miffed with people using his book The Selfish Gene as a reason to be selfish so in later editions he added a chapter called Nice Guys Finish First on how niceness and helping out can be beneficial to both sides.

This book is a wonderful read and I recommend it.
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