Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Sociology, Charles Darwin, Race, Law, Social Darwinism, Economics, World, Nation

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/01/05

Social Darwinism refers to the application of biological principles espoused by the renowned biologist Charles Darwin to the social and cultural world of an increasingly globalized economic and society (Darwin, 1880). The notion of the “survival of the fittest,” coined by Herbert Spencer, was appropriated in discussions and discourses about nations and races. According to this logic, stronger nations would prevail in national and international conflicts such as World War I, which determined which nation and race was the most power. This logic resulted in the germination of Raceology and the eugenics movement, which focused on how to breed better human stock in a way that overtly eschewed intermarriage. Social Darwinism thus led to the fomenting of stringent anti-Semitism, which reemerged on the European continent for centuries with a new fervor and impulse. Pan-Germanism, or the feeling of German cultural superiority as well as pan-Slavism in east Europe predicated on the belief in the superiority in the Slavic race fomented as a result of Social Darwnism, which catalyzed global impulses to modernize in every arena. Such global competition culminated in disastrous world conflicts that exposed the darker side of human nature within the context of modernity. Social Darwinism was a potent epistemology that reified economic inequities that inhered capitalism while also justifying state-sanctioned racism and the eugenics movement that would culminate only decades later.
Social Darwinism unequivocally justified capitalism as a viable economic system that ran counter to Marxian theory. Marx posited that capitalism was rotten at the core because it is based on inequality ad the uneven distribution of wealth. Rather than viewing history as a cyclical force propelled by competing economic systems, social Darwinism supported capitalists who claimed that they possessed the majority of money and wealth in society because they were destined to according to natural laws. As such, economic inequality was not necessarily a negative thing because the strongest members of societies were destined to triumph and destined to procure more money and wealth than the purportedly weaker members. Capitalists thus invoked Social Darwinism to undermine efforts at social regulation and against big businesses and monopolies. As a result, corporate magnets such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie emerged who fused natural laws with theology. Indeed, Social Darwinism was critical for how big business, moguls, and new corporations conceived of themselves in relation to everyone below them, including workers who pushed back against them and in relation to the state. The state holds keys to regulation, which gives more ammunition to capitalists for why there should not be regulation, which was viewed as the transgression of natural and divine law. In Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, he argues that the law of competition was not only beneficial but essential to the future progress of the race. By deploying the language of inevitability regarding how evolution works, Carnegie contends that only the fittest survive, and if an individual was not rendered a part of the fit then there was something wrong with him or her (Carnegie, 1889). Such logic undergirds how poverty had been viewed throughout the nineteenth century as the twin forces of modernization and industrialization profoundly altered western societies and exacerbated the bifurcation of societies that were already highly stratified.
Beyond justifying capitalism, Social Darwinism was more famously used to justify Raceology and racialized nationalism which culminated in two global wars and the onset of racially motivated violence sanctioned by the state. Karl Pearson was the seminal figure who appropriated Darwin’s principles to conceptualize the development of the relations between nations and “race.” Pearson was a staunch follower of Sir Francis Galton, who was one of the founders of racial science, or eugenics. In Pearson’s National Life From the Standpoint of Science, he contended that history is a struggle of races, thereby taking Karl Marx’s concept of class struggle and replaced it with the biological concept of race. While struggle means suffering and pain, it also represents progress. By getting rid of inferior stock polluting the nation, the master race would be uplifted as only the strong survive. Doing so bolsters the strength of the nation. If a nation is weakened by the pollution of inferior peoples, the strong race would become vulnerable to other developing strong races. Thus, a battle is necessary (Pearson, 1900). Such thinking was based in scientific principles, which the technocratic language used by Pearson underscores. The eugenics movement based on scientific notions culminated in the Holocaust based on the notion that better genes breeds better progeny. Social Darwinism unequivocally provides the foundation for imperialism and for a reinvigorated race for power that materialized amongst the European nations
Social science took biological principles, laws of physics and the laws of gravity, or natural laws, and utilized them in order to interpret how societies work and function in a similar way to how Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Spencer thus took the teleological functioning of history working towards something better and applied it to economic, social, and cultural arenas. Spencer was the first person to take the biological theory and apply it to socio-economic issues and examine how such logic could explain how the world and various societies worked within themselves as well as in relation to the others. Spencer concluded that social interactions were equivalent to competitions at the basic animal and plant level. These competitions involved pain and suffering but nonetheless were necessary in order to ascertain which country was the most powerful amidst a tumultuous epoch demarked by imperialistic impulses and was used not only to justify the inequities that inhered capitalism as an economic system but also the racism that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.


Carnegie, A. (1889). WEALTH. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/rbannis1/AIH19th/Carnegie.html
Darwin, C. (1880). OnThe Origin of Species. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/origin.html
Pearson, K. (1900). Modern History Sourcebook: Karl Pearson: National Life From the Standpoint of Science, 1900. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from http://www.iupui.edu/~histwhs/H374.dir/H374.webreader/darwin.pearson.html

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WePapers. (2021, January, 05) Social Darwinism Essay. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/social-darwinism-essay/
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Social Darwinism Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/social-darwinism-essay/. Published Jan 05, 2021. Accessed August 15, 2022.

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