Social Darwinism

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Social Darwinism is a term used for different movements. Charles Darwin was one of the main proponents of evolution. Evolution is a concept from biology that tries to explain how different life-forms change over time. It basically says that because most children are not exactly like their parents, there is change. Some of the children will have different features (or traits). These features will mean that some children are better adapted to the place where they live. They will therefore be better able to have offspring. Some of the offspring might also have the trait of their parents.

Social Darwinism theories try to use these ideas from biology for human society. They talk about a Struggle for survival of human societies. During the era of Nazi ideologies, the idea of Survival of the fittest combined with racism. They claimed the Aryan race was better than all the other races and therefore needed more space to live. This space was to be provided in the east (where mostly Slavs lived). Today, this is seen as badly named. Most of the ideas for the theories are from Lamarckism and not from the theory of evolution, proposed by Charles Darwin.

Although Darwin's idea was revered in most of the western societies, many Russian intellectuals did not accept his ideas. They feared that accepting Darwin's ideas would harm their morality. One of Darwin's biggest critic was Leo Tolstoy, who felt strongly against what he thought was Darwin's idea. In a letter from his death bed, he warned his children not to take Darwin's struggle for existence as a moral guide.[1] Darwin never suggested his ideas were a basis for human life, just a description of what had happened in evolution.

Social Darwinism takes the ideas from Darwin’s theory of evolution and uses it on different parts of society, like politics. Darwin believed that people who were more able to survive were able to have kids with similar abilities. Social Darwinism says that people who have more skills will become more successful. These people can spread their influence and change the politics and society around them to make it better for themselves. The people on the top are those who have a lot of money and have a lot of political control.

             Social Darwinism can be used as a drive for political parties. For example, the Nazis during World War 2. They preferred some people over others based on ideas like race, and the amount of political control they had. The did not like the Jewish people because they thought they were less than human and were not as important as the rest of the people of Germany. For this reason, the usage of the terms Social Darwinism has been cutback after World War 2. People want to distance themselves from any talk of the concept of Social Darwinism.

             Social Darwinism has been made popular by an author named Herbert Spencer[permanent dead link]. Herbert Spencer is the one who came up with the idea of “survival of the fittest”, those people that had better things and places in their lives (for example money and political power) were able to survive longer and have kids with the same skill sets. Spencer believed that different people possess different skills in life, some are naturally better at succeeding at life because of their physical abilities, or because of their mental abilities. Spencer believed that humans have become more and more different as time goes by, people will grow up with very different abilities, and these different abilities become more and more obvious as time passes. Spencer believed in the concept of teleology, or that people were destined to become who they are, for better or worse. Different people did not have to work to become who they wanted to be; they were born in a way that made it easier for them.

References[change | change source]

  1. Todes, Daniel. 1987. Darwin's malthusian metaphor and Russian evolutionary thought, 1859-1917. Chicago Journal, 78, 4, pp. 537-551.

2. Herbet Spencer -- social darwinism - (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2021, from Spencer-social-darwinism1.pdf.