Alfred Russel Wallace on Anarchy


We known Alfred Russel Wallace as an evolutionary biologist who in Darwin’s shadow came up with the same idea of natural selection. Who even formulated this idea first and sent the draft to Darwin who copied it an gathered all the fame.

When reading his books Malay Archipelago, the land of the orang-utan and the bird of paradise, The; a narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature, we learn about an other Wallace, who is not just a fervent collector of animals and a devoted naturalist but also an acute observer of social relationships. His work in that respect is more astouding nowadays when social sciences a stuck in the mud.

As an example, here is a quote from volume 2 chapter XXX.

I daresay there are now near five hundred people in Dobbo of

various races, all met in this remote corner of the East, as they

express it, “to look for their fortune;” to get money any way

they can. They are most of them people who have the very worst

reputation for honesty as well as every other form of morality,–

Chinese, Bugis, Ceramese, and half-caste Javanese, with a

sprinkling of half-wild Papuans from Timor, Babber, and other

islands, yet all goes on as yet very quietly. This motley,

ignorant, bloodthirsty, thievish population live here without the

shadow of a government, with no police, no courts, and no

lawyers; yet they do not cut each other’s throats, do not plunder

each other day and night, do not fall into the anarchy such a

state of things might be supposed to lead to. It is very

extraordinary! It puts strange thoughts into one’s head about the

mountain-load of government under which people exist in Europe,

and suggests the idea that we may be over-governed. Think of the

hundred Acts of Parliament annually enacted to prevent us, the

people of England, from cutting each other’s throats, or from

doing to our neighbour as we would not be done by. Think of the

thousands of lawyers and barristers whose whole lives are spent

in telling us what the hundred Acts of Parliament mean, and one

would be led to infer that if Dobbo has too little law England

has too much.

Furthermore, while reading Wallace’s account and studying his social engagement there is an other idea that pops up. It can be assumed that the Darwin-Wallace controversy and the dominance of Darwin in all our literature is more of a recent invention. It is the result of actively suppressing Wallace’s social ideas.