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The Conquest of Bread

Cover of Elephant Editions reprint of Conquest Of Bread, 1985. (Cover art by Clifford Harper.)
The Conquest of Bread (French: La Conquête du Pain) is a book by the anarchist communist Peter Kropotkin. Originally written in French, it first appeared as a series of articles in the anarchist journals Le Révolté and La Revolté (which were both edited by Kropotkin). It was first published as a book in Paris in 1892 with a preface by Élisée Reclus, who also suggested the title. Between 1892 and 1894 it was serialised, in part, in the London journal Freedom, of which Kropotkin was a co-founder. It has been translated and reprinted numerous times: it was translated into Japanese, for example, by Kotoku Shusui in 1909. It has been reprinted by Elephant Editions (1985), Vanguard Press (1995) and Freedom Press.

In this work, Kropotkin points out the fallacies of the economic systems of feudalism and capitalism, and how these create poverty and scarcity while promoting privilege. He goes on to propose a more decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation, asserting that the tendencies for this kind of organisation already exist, both in evolution and in human society.

Table of contents
1 Summary of chapters
2 External links

Summary of chapters

Chapter 1: Our Riches

Kropotkin begins, in the part I of this chapter, by stating that humanity is rich, "surpassing the dreams of the fairy tales of the Thousand and One Nights". He then asserts, in part II, that these riches have been earned by generations of workers and inventors, creating and improving technology and making land more habitable. Kropotkin then tells us that these riches are being, and have been, appropriated by a small class of owners who "force [people] to produce, not the necessities of life, but whatever offers the greatest profits to the monopolists." "In this," he says, "is the essence of all Socialism." Part III concludes that

All things belong to all, since all men have need of them, since all men have worked in the measure of their strength to produce them, and since it is not possible to evaluate every one's part in the production of the world's wealth.

Chapter 2: Well-Being For All

In this chapter, the author asserts that "[w]ell-being for all is not a dream," and goes on to show that "our riches" are being squandered, and this is the reason that well-being for all is not (yet) a reality. To back this up, Kropotkin tells us that a number of factors are at play, namely:

Chapter 3: Anarchist Communism

Having said that people should claim the right to live and then the right to well-being, Kropotkin proclaims that the only means of achieving "well-being for all" is Anarchist Communism.

Chapter 4: Expropriation

Chapter 5: Food

Chapter 6: Dwellings

Chapter 7: Clothing

Chapter 8: Ways and Means

Chapter 9: The Need for Luxury

Chapter 10: Agreeable Work

Chapter 11: Free Agreement

Chapter 12: Objections

Chapter 13: The Collectivist Wages System

Chapter 14: Consumption and Production

Chapter 15: The Division of Labour

Chapter 16: The Decentralization of Industry

Chapter 17: Agriculture

Remaining chapter summaries to follow

See also: anarchism, Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution

External links