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The Misinterpretations of Social Darwinism

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Social Darwinists took Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection and ran with them. Taking genuine ideas and skewing them to uphold injustices bestowed upon the poor and lower class. Hard-working citizens who were doing anything they could to sustain the wellbeing of their families were left to scrape along. Deemed “less fit” or “weaker” than those in the higher classes, skilled workers were left to work ‘unskilled trades’. All the while, the rich were seen as the fittest and were treated as so. The poor were seen working up to sixty hours a week, seeing one month a year unemployed. Despite their hard, seemingly endless work, they were still below the poverty line. While the poor suffered, the rich continued to accrue more capital. Whilst this appears unjust, social Darwinists led the rich and the government to believe that, biologically, the rich were destined to be rich. They posed the idea that the poor were destined to be poor, only to work for small wages as a result of their low level in the evolutionary pyramid.

Government aid programs were shunned, as sociologists and theorists felt that these aid programs would allow the poor to continue to breed more ‘inferior’ individuals into the population. These flawed beliefs would lead to forced sterilization of those that were believed to have no contributions to give to society. Effectively, their offspring (which would not be born) would be unable to continue this negative behavior. As of now, only twenty-two states have laws that allow compulsory eugenic sterilization. Although these laws exist, very few are performed in modern-day America. These individuals who skewed the words of Charles Darwin firmly believed that no intervention should be made to assist the lesser beings. They religiously followed and believed the statement “survival of the fittest”, taking it literally. Anyone who was not “fit” should not reproduce at all, let alone be living. It’s worth noting that this dictum, “survival of the fittest”, was not coined by Darwin, but was rather coined by sociologist Herbert Spencer.

Ultimately, their attempts to shun the poor and create a utopian society where the rich prosper was futile. Although there are still disparities in wealth today, finding a fair paying job in the United States is not as difficult as it was a century ago. Hard-working men and women can sustain themselves and their families through work and government aid, which these theorists were against. More and more first-generation students break this stigma, seemingly elevating themselves on the evolutionary totem pole presented by the theorists. While Darwin’s theory of evolution is backed by science, it simply does not work as fast as Social Darwinists believed. Simply because a group of individuals is less fortunate, generations of men and women to follow are not destined to remain poor. In the case of Social Darwinism, fairness and equality prevailed. Social Darwinism is no longer an accepted way of thinking, which is how things should be in this world.

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The Misinterpretations Of Social Darwinism. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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