Social darwinism

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In what ways did Social Darwinism differ from Darwin’s theories? What did they have in common? What were the origins of Social Darwinism, and why did it not emerge as the homogenous, monolithic ideological entity that it is often assumed to be?

The Social Darwinism is based on theories of evolution developed by a British naturalist

Charles Darwin (1809-1882). The idea is that humans, likeanimals and plants, compete in a fight

for existence in which natural selection results in “survival of the fittest”. In the first part, we’re going

to explain the Darwin’s theories; in the second, the sliding to the Social Darwinism and in the latest,

their differences and common points.

Charles Robert Darwin was born in 1809 in Shrewsbury (Great Britain). He studied

medicinein Edimbourg from 1825 to 1828. In 1831, he went on the Beagle’s ship in expedition to

South America and to the Pacific Islands. Darwin's job as ship naturalist was to collect specimens,

make observations, and keep careful records of anything he observed that he thought significant.

He brought from this trip, which lasted 5 years, the observations which will be the bases of his mostfamous book : “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of

Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” issued in 1859. In 1837 Darwin began his first notebook on

evolution. For several years he filled his notebooks with facts that could be used to support the

theory of evolution. He found evidence from his study of the fossil record: he observed thatfossils

of similar relative ages are more closely related than those of widely different relative ages. For

Darwin, the evolution of the species is a biological evolution which is based on the natural selection

phenomenon. According to him, the population composing a living specie is made up by individuals

apparently similar but in reality they are different on the biologicalscharacters. So their aptitude to

survive and to reproduce has effects on the population biologically heterogenous.

The nature carries out the systematic sorting of the fittest who will adapt themselves because of

their biological characters, so they could subsist and reproduce. The behaviours acquired from the

fact of the adaptation are hereditaries. Darwin felt that social instincts suchas sympathy also

evolved through natural selection, and that these resulted in the strengthening of societies.

Social Darwinism bases it belief on theories of evolution developed by Charles Darwin.

The Englishman most associated with Social Darwinism was sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820-

1903). He coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” to describe the outcome of competitionbetween

social groups. This is a social adaptation of the theory of natural selection. The term "Social

Darwinism" first appeared in an 1879 article in Popular Science by Oscar Schmidt. Social

Darwinism claims that the competition, the struggle for life, affects, inside the human specie, the

different social groups which compose it; so in that way hierarchies are created. This is theresult of

a social selection which permit for the best to beat. But for Spencer, all the social groups are in

competition each other; all that can weaken a social group is a benefit to the rivals. As a result,

Spencer thinks that every artificial protection for the weak is an handicap for the social groups

for which they belong to; insofar as this protection has for effect to weighdown the groups’

functioning and so to put it on inferiority position in front of the rivals social groups. Social

Darwinism has been politically used by classical liberalism to justify the no-intervention of the state

in economical and social fields.

While the Darwinism is a general theory which concerns the evolution of all the living

species, Social Darwinism of Spencer is...
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