Social darwinism

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Pride for Red D...
Social darwinism

If you had to define social darwinism to someone who knew nothing about it quickly ( 1 minute max) how would you do it ? Racism supported by science ? Survival of the fittest should fit in there somehow. In a ww2 expalantion context of the holocaust. Was very important in how Hitler conducted the war and of course the holocaust- which is what I'd actually be explaining as a museum interpretor, the holocaust and its context.


Yeah, I would just file it under "scientific racism"  It's essentially the argument that racism and oppression is justified based on a misapplication of Darwin's theories.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

I would avoid using the term social darwinism altogether, as it slanders Darwinian theory.

It's the idea that everybody fends for themselves, and acts in a completely selfish and egoistic manner. You get ahead by stepping on others and by surviving being stepped on by others.

It does not seek "justification" by reference to Darwin or anyone else. And there is nothing scientific or even necessarily racist about it. It's just the "law of the jungle" applied to humans.

sknguy II

M. Spector wrote:

It's just the "law of the jungle" applied to humans.

I think your right that it's not a race based idea. But I think that individualism would be a sufficient descriptor to "law of the jungle".

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

I think there is a category mismatch in equating the "law of the jungle" with "individualism".

I always think of individualism as being the antonym of collectivism. I don't think of it as necessarily incompatible with altruism.

But altruism is incompatible with "social darwinism" or the "law of the jungle".


I think there is some elements of racism to it as well, particularly in the application - a certain racial group has the capability to oppress another racial group, and social darwinist theory not only says that the group with that capability is superior, but that they should utilize that oppression to keep the master race pure - selective breeding, eugenics, genocide, etc.  And it is an ideology which really comes out of the time when they were looking for scientific or pseudoscientific rationales for racism, and it is definitely towards the pseudoscientific end of things.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Nobody calls himself or herself a "social darwinist". It's a pejorative term used by opponents to ridicule any practice, theory, or ideological tendency that says people should fend for themselves and not look to society to support them when they need help.

So all kinds of fascist, neo-con, neo-lib, racist, and Libertarian ideologies can be called social darwinist, but I don't think it's appropriate to call it an "ideology" in itself. It's rather a characteristic of certain ideologies.  

sknguy II

Isn't this a non-term though? I don't think that the two words fit... a bit like an oxymoron, or made up term, or even something Fox News might come up with?.

As an aside M.Spector. I'm from the camp that thinks altruism is actually the opposite of individualism. And see collectivism as a political idea.

Pride for Red D...

Fox didn;t come up with these misaplication of ideas, it was a relative of Darwin's that did. And the left has utlized these ideas as well, we're not immune.It's twisting science to support a pre-existing idea.

But race does have soemthing to do with it- darwin theory says that animals survuied and evolved because they have the biological tools ( i.e. fish with gills, animals with tails,etc) to do so, they were superior to those that went extinct, they overcame in the struggle to survive. Socail darwinism says that certain people are superior and others are subhuman- Hitler didnlt invade Poland to add their supperiority to theirs, but because they were subhuman, full of jews who threatened their existence in their minds through a world consipiracy- the Germans had to struggle to survive.

Rexdale_Punjabi Rexdale_Punjabi's picture

the law of the jungle is to be not be individuals. You cant survive alone in the jungle and humans never really have. Humans interact and live based on groups this whole individual thing is funny because if we did that b4 none of us would be here.


The problem with the race thing is it aint there biologically there's adaptation but because we can all have kids with each other n they dont turn out all fucced up we still the same species and aren't sub-species either. The adapations can affect climate like I dont see white ppl surviving in the jungle for long like we do but thats a climatic thing and the cold would be the same thing for us kind of. We gotten to the point where not much of it matters no more but it used to and there's still certain stuff esp outside a urban area where itz tougher for one "race" but it aint impossible esp today with guns n other stuff.


That's why it fails from the beginning when applied to humans na mean cuz the stuff required for the way they approach it aint there thre in the 1st place.



I think Social Darwinism is kinda the same as some Protestant religious thinking that says the righteous will be materially rewarded in this life.  A nice tautology that dictates that the rich rule by devine right. 

Which only works if you are religious.

Social Darwinism was invented to bridge that gap.  The rich are inherantly superior, as evidenced by their wealth.  A nice tautology again.   It's frequently, racist, but not necessarily so.  

I suspect the less homogenous a society, the more racist social darwinism becomes.  In a more homogenous society, it's more classist.


M. Spector M. Spector's picture


The idea that the theory of Natural Selection was an appropriate basis for understanding and governing human societies originated with the English libertarian philosopher Herbert Spencer, the man who originated the phrase "survival of the fittest." He argued that natural selection would eventually produce a perfect society, but only if it had free reign to operate so that the unfit could be eliminated. To that end he opposed public education, compulsory smallpox vaccination, free libraries, workplace safety laws and even charitable support for the "undeserving poor."

Such views, later labeled "Social Darwinism," were eagerly adopted by defenders of unfettered capitalism. The billionaire oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller famously told a Sunday school class in New York City:

"the growth of large business is merely a survival of the fittest ... The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God."

Engels was scathing in his rejection of attempts to apply biological laws to human society. In a letter to the Russian socialist Pyotr Lavrov in 1875, he pointed out that the "bourgeois Darwinians" - referring to a political current in Germany that claimed to be applying Darwin's views - first claimed that the political concept "survival of the fittest" applied to nature, and then reversed the process:

"All that the Darwinian theory of the struggle for existence boils down to is an extrapolation from society to animate nature of Hobbes' theory of the bellum omnium contra omnes [war of all against all] and of the bourgeois-economic theory of competition together with the Malthusian theory of population. Having accomplished this feat ... these people proceed to re-extrapolate the same theories from organic nature to history, and then claim to have proved their validity as eternal laws of human society. The puerility of this procedure is self-evident, and there is no need to waste words on it."

These political Darwinians, Engels concluded, can be described, "firstly as bad economists and secondly as bad naturalists and philosophers."

[url=]Source[/url] (.pdf) 

Rexdale_Punjabi Rexdale_Punjabi's picture

let them do that shit this all Im gonna say cuz.


They say survival of the fittest right. They think that only means 1 thing force/power. Women are weaker then men according to them they inferior then. Let them not fucc and have no kids. End of Discussion.


These manz are stupid as shit they just drunk on power and lost sight of reality, as well as the fact that they seem to think that they "came" up with no help another sign of a very priveleged person.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Pride for Red Dolores wrote:

...darwin theory says that animals survuied and evolved because they have the biological tools ( i.e. fish with gills, animals with tails,etc) to do so, they were superior to those that went extinct, they overcame in the struggle to survive.

Actually, Darwinism makes no claims of "superiority" for one species over another on the basis of how well they survive. Otherwise, the most "superior" species on earth would be bacteria.

In fact, Darwinism makes no value judgments about species at all. And it certainly has nothing to say about the supposed superiority of one "race" over another.

Species that survive are those best adapted to their environments and best able to adapt when their environments change. Dinosaurs were unable to adapt to catastrophic change in their environment; some small mammals did survive, while the dinosaurs did not. These facts say nothing about the relative "superiority" of dinosaurs or small mammals. 

Pride for Red D...

That looks like a very interesting article M Spector- and the excerpt is bang on so far as I can see.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

I completely agree with M. Spector. In fact, Richard Dawkins expressed disastisfaction with his selfish gene theory being misapproriated by Skilling at Enron to define his brand of corporate piracy ..., er, capitalism.

But neither Darwin nor Dawkins proposed their theories to explain or justify human behaviour or human social organization.  So-called Social Darwinism is a misapplication of science by psycopaths. 


Rexdale_Punjabi wrote:



These manz are stupid as shit they just drunk on power and lost sight of reality, as well as the fact that they seem to think that they "came" up with no help another sign of a very priveleged person.

Musical Interlude, courtesy of the Talking Heads:


And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

I guess some people are uncomfortable with the idea that the answer may be luck of the draw, so they take from religion or science
what they feel they need to in order to calm their fears of a universe indifferent to their existance.

Me, considering the violence you can see through a telescope, I am very glad the Universe is indifferent to me.