Social Darwinism

biological concepts of natural selection & survival fitness re-imagined socio-politically
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Social Darwinism is a term used for different movements. Charles Darwin was one of the main proponents of evolution. Evolution is a concept from biology that tries to explain how different life-forms change over time. It basically says that because most children are not exactly like their parents, there is change. Some of the children will have different features (or traits). These features will mean that some children are better adapted to the place where they live. They will therefore be better able to have offspring. Some of the offspring might also have the trait of their parents.

Social Darwinism theories try to use these ideas from biology for human society. They talk about a Struggle for survival of human societies. During the era of Nazi ideologies, the idea of Survival of the fittest combined with racism. They claimed the Aryan race was better than all the other races and therefore needed more space to live. This space was to be provided in the east (where mostly Slavs lived). Today, this is seen as badly named. Most of the ideas for the theories are from Lamarckism and not from the theory of evolution, proposed by Charles Darwin.

Although Darwin's idea was revered in most of the western societies, many Russian intellectuals did not accept his ideas. They feared that accepting Darwin's ideas would harm their morality. One of Darwin's biggest critic was Leo Tolstoy, who felt strongly against what he thought was Darwin's idea. In a letter from his death bed, he warned his children not to take Darwin's struggle for existence as a moral guide.[1] Darwin never suggested his ideas were a basis for human life, just a description of what had happened in evolution.


  1. Todes, Daniel. 1987. Darwin's malthusian metaphor and Russian evolutionary thought, 1859-1917. Chicago Journal, 78, 4, pp. 537-551.