Mutualism in a Nutshell

May 18, 2010

Alex Strekal (Brainpolice) asks, “What is Mutualism?”

Charles T. Sprading’s 1930 Mutual Service and Cooperation provides what I think is a pretty useful answer (HT Shawn Wilbur). The following long quote is from the book’s forward:


Mutual service is action. It is an action that induces a reciprocal action in return. It is also doing something that needs to be done.

Mutual service is a reciprocal relation between two or more persons. It means mutual engagements or obligations. In philosophy it is the recognition of the interdependence of individuals.

Mutual service in a free association results in a harmonious relationship. This condition is brought about by identity of interests which produces a like-mindedness, or mutual understanding. Social order is obtained by agreement in fundamental social needs, just as discords are caused by disagreement in those matters.

In economics, mutual service means voluntary cooperation; a reciprocal interchange of goods; a unity of production; an equity in distribution; a production for use rather than for profit.

Mutual service is now practiced by voluntary associations of individuals, whose purpose is the establishment of equitable conditions through mutual interests and social rights.

The old legal codes provided for political justice, for civil justice, for social justice. But in addition to these, mutual service requires economic justice. Industrial justice is as essential to man’s happiness as are the other three. Intellectual, political, religious freedom is necessary to man’s happiness and advancement, but so is economic freedom, and its establishment will be accomplished through mutual service, or voluntary cooperation, which will be treated at length under its proper heading.

Mutual service in ethics might be described as an exchange of service between people with equal respect for each other. Real solidarity is established by a common nobility of sentiment.

The purpose of mutual ethics is collective human welfare. It is not self-sacrifice, but mutual service. It is a promise for a promise, a receiving and a giving; a mutual interchange of engagements or obligations; mutual assistance that is effective and preservative, wherein the servers are served.

The believers in mutual service might properly be called Mutualists, and that name will be used occasionally when necessary in speaking of those who act in unison for a common benefit.

…Any kind of a dictatorship would be in violation of the mutual service standard of voluntary cooperation. In a mutual service society, there would be no material or moral compulsion exercised by one set of men on another group of men through the power of one side, and the weakness of the other.

The believers in mutual service do not need to convert the whole world, nor even a majority, to their plan, to benefit by it. A small group can apply it to members. The larger, the better, but there is no need to wait for a majority, as political parties must, to enact their plan. Those who will can find other willing ones to put it into operation.

Mutual service means a working together for the benefit of all concerned. It means production for service, for consumption, and not for profits for one and loss for another. It pays to work for others if others will work for us in return. This is not sacrifice; it is mutual helpfulness and accomplishes much more for all than can be accomplished singly. It is social because it is harmonious. It means that we should be as loyal to our neighbors as we are to our family. The extended right hand of fellowship has often caused an opponent to drop a weapon and grasp that hand in comradeship.

Mutual service aids in re-establishing harmony between conflicting individual groups. It tends to the establishing of equity by abolishing disparities. Mutual service snatches the child from in front of the oncoming automobile. It impels the rescuers to enter the burning house, or launch the lifeboat from the safe shore. It stimulates beneficence; it mitigates disappointments, averts many misfortunes, softens the otherwise disastrous blows, and encourages the fallen to rise.


One Response to “Mutualism in a Nutshell”

  1. Danny Says:

    “Help! Will someone please get me out of this nutshell?!”

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