What is Social Darwinism? Essay

What is Social Darwinism? Essay

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In 1859 Charles Darwin published his work, On the Origin of Species, which was to cause a revolution in the understanding of biology. From the beginning, this scientific theory gave way to multiple misinterpretations and missapropriations by different kinds of theorists and especially by social scientists.
In order to explain these misunderstandings, one must first point the main differences between darwinism and other forms of evolutionary theories, especially, Lamarckism.
Analysis will follow the pointing out of some of the misinterpretations carried out during the XIXth century, while Charles Darwin was still alive. This will give the opportunity to examine some of the reactions by Darwin himself to these first defenders of darwinism.
Finally, the paper will review some of the main branches of the so called Social Darwinism during the XX century (especially in Europe), which were still based to a great extent in the same mistakes as those made by the theorists in the XIXth century.

Both Lamark and Darwin agreed in accepting that the different life forms evolved through time and they were in a constant process of change. Therefore, neither of them believed that species remained “fixed” or unchanged. They also coincided in the idea that the evolution of species involved a process that went from few and simple organisms to multiple and ever more complex organisms (Ruse, 3).

Lamarck published in 1801 a book entitled Theory of Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics. In this book he presented his idea about evolution: whenever an organism makes any changes during its life in order to adapt to the environment, those changes will be passed on to the offspring. The wants or needs of the organism made the changes happen, according...


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Beck, Naomi. “The Origin and Political Thought”. In The Cambridge Companion to the “Origin of the Species”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009.

Goodall, Jane. “Dangerous Darwinism”. In Public Understanding of Science, 2002.

McLean, Iain. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics. Oxford University: Oxford University Press. 2009.

Marchant, P.D. “Social Darwinism”. Melbourne, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 1957.

Munro, Neil. “Political Darwinism”. National Journal. 2007.

Rubin, Paul. Darwinian Politics. London, Rutgers University Press. 2002.

Ruse, Michael. “The Origin of the Origin”, in The Cambridge Companion to the “Origin of the Species”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009.

Ruse, Michael and Richards, Robert. The Cambridge Companion to the “Origin of the Species”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009.




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