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What is Social Darwinism?


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Social Darwinism is a misguided social theory that attempts to adapt Charles Darwin natural selection principles and apply it to human society. This social theory, promotes a culture that embraces the concept of the "survival of the fittest" whereby using it to explain poverty and to justify class distinctions between individuals, as well as, the imbalances of power between races, and nations.


It claimed that the success one achieves in society and the wealth attained, is determined by ones genetic background. As such it was morally wrong to assist those who were weaker (poor, less successful, or disadvantaged minorities) in society because one would unnaturally promote the survival of the "unfit" whereby allowing them to reproduce carrying on this “flawed” genetic makeup. They were seen to deserve their outcome in life because they were “less fit” than those who were better off (better adapted). This was therefore a natural way of nature weeding out the genes from the population - destined for extinction. It was therefore used to justify eugenics programs which aimed to obliterate “undesirable” genes of the “unfit” the less fortunate who would become extinct overtime. Thereby, creating a superior society of people of greater health and intelligence which would lessen human sufferings and other societal ills that would save the society's resources.

It provided a justification for the more exploitative forms of business practices which was supported by theories of laissez-faire economics. A system where workers were underpaid and overworked. As such, these large business didn’t recognize labor unions and altercate that governments should not interfere with human competition by tampering with the natural evolution of society. This includes, regulating the economy or helping the weaker (less fortunate) people in society. They were for example, against the rich donating money to programs that would support the poor and needy, as well as, the public school system (since it forced taxpayers to pay for the education of the poor people's children). They were against all these regulation and policies because it would allow these “unfit” to pass on their “poor quality” genetics traits to their offspring - the next generation. This therefore created a great gap between wealth and poverty.

Social Darwinism also claimed that some races or nations are more fit for survival than others and are therefore designed by nature to dominate inferior races or nations. This misguided application of science was used to promote social and political agendas, not intended by Darwin himself. Hitler used these ideas and incorporated them into Nazism. The Nazis used this scientific justification to murder millions of Jews in World War II (the Holocaust) as a way of cleaning out the inferior genetics. Others have also used this misguided and dangerous social theory to carry out serious crime and evil on their fellow human.

Colonialism was also seen as being natural as away of life. This was marked by the exploitation by a stronger country of weaker one because they saw others (natives) as being weaker and unfit to survive. This justified the seizing and use of the weaker country's land and resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country.

This concept was improperly deduced by British philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) which became popular in the late nineteenth century (in Europe and the United States) to the end of World War II. Spencer adapted Darwinian ideas to his own ethical theories to explain why individuals or groups of peoples were at the top economically, socially or politically - and less fit to fail and die. These individuals or groups of peoples were seen as the "survival of the fittest" because they competed against others and had proven themselves to be the best adapted in society - their environment.

Western society was advanced (economic, political and technological including militarily) in comparison to that of other cultures and was therefore seen by Social Darwinists to be superior to others because of the superior abilities of whites (European race) compared with other ‘racial’ groups. Thus these other cultures were seen destined to be ruled over by this superior race.

Hence, Social Darwinism is a sociological theory that attempts to extend natural processes into human social structures whereby applying the theory of natural selection to social, political, and economic issues to justify imperialism, racism, and exploitative forms of capitalism. This has been used to justify eugenics programs that would eventually make the “undesirable” genes of the “unfit” become extinct overtime. Thus, Social Darwinism theory has been proven to be abominable, phony and dangerous.

Related Article:
What is Natural Selection?

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