Bloomington High School North Library

Bloomington High School North

The conquest of bread

Review by Jonah Wolf on May 19, 2016

Categories: Non-fiction

The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin is an interesting and fresh perspective on political science and economic theory. Kropotkin, and interesting character himself, details in this nonfiction book how a society could be constructed that is completely egalitarian, free if the oppressive institutions of both capitalism and the state.
Kropotkin was born near the end of the Russian tsardom, and he lived in the late 1800s. He became interested in the plight of the basically enslaved Russian peasants at an early age, renouncing his noble title, “Kniaz”, which means prince, at the age of twelve. He was eventually exiled for not supporting the tsar and traveled around, living in Paris, London, and Switzerland for a time each. He published books in the language of his current home, and as such, The Conquest of Bread was originally written in French. His other most famous book is Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, where he critiques Darwin’s theory of evolution by discussing how many species evolve not through competition, but cooperation, especially humans.
The book itself details each aspect of how this “anarcho-communist” society would function, as well as providing historical examples, i.e. the Paris Commune, as well as medieval communal livestock. It also deals with potential criticisms of his system well, explaining the inconsistencies with standard politics well and convincingly. Perhaps most interestingly, he critiques each and every one of the modern political systems, and describes their major downsides, from free market capitalism to autocracy and oligarchy to state socialism.
For those interested in a consistent political theory, devoid of the major issues that plague most modern systems, Peter Kropotkin’s Conquest of Bread is amazing. He proposes a system that seems greatly superior to our overly oligarchic capitalism, as well the horrors of the state socialism that capitalists so often compare him to.