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How did the idea of Social Darwinism fuel Europeans to see themselves as superior to...

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codyb2 | eNoter

Posted December 30, 2013 at 2:00 AM via web

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How did the idea of Social Darwinism fuel Europeans to see themselves as superior to those they ruled?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 30, 2013 at 2:28 AM (Answer #1)

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At its roots, Social Darwinism advocated that there was a social hierarchy.  This structure embraced the idea that those who were believed to be at its apex possessed an intrinsic superiority to others.  Social Darwinism took root in a perceived understanding of Darwinian thought and believed in applying this idea to sociological reality.  European thinkers like Herbert Spencer were able to take the subtle and nuanced complexity of Darwinian "survival of the fittest" and apply it to social reality.  Spencer's use of Darwin's idea in this regard helped to establish groups of Europeans as superior to others.  This same philosophical tract was evident in America.  In both settings, Social Darwinism was used to justify laissez- faire economics, sustain imperialistic practices, and establish "justifications for conquest."

Those in Europe and America used Social Darwinism to fuel a belief in superiority.  The use of Social Darwinism was able to suggest that natural differences existed.  From this, it substantiated a natural superiority for those in the position of power. Spencer spoke to this in his advocacy of Social Darwinism as a sociological reality:  "A nation which fosters its good-for-nothings will end by becoming a good-for-nothing nation."  Spencer's beliefs regarding a distinction between those who were effective as brokers of power and others deemed as "good- for- nothing" was an illumination of the superiority that Social Darwinism imparted to those in the position of power in Europe and America.

Part of the Social Darwinist appeal to Europeans and Americans rested in the validation of the temporal condition of power.  Given how much of the world's power existed in Europe and America, Social Darwinism was able to fuel the perception that the people in these nations were "superior" to others.  Social Darwinism justified the existence of the Status Quo.  It provided the justification to continue practices that denied voice and removed the ability to envision a more transformative condition of being.  Examples of this continuation could be seen in the continuation of the slave trade as well as the establishment of imperialism and colonialism.  These became ways in which Europeans and Americans were able to see themselves as superior to others, and thus justify the continuation of the Status Quo. 

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codyb2 | eNoter

Posted December 30, 2013 at 2:45 AM (Reply #1)

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Thanks for the input. I am under the impression that the post-idustrial/scientific revolution mood in Europe contributed to the phenomena. It seems that due to the boom of free thought that lead to, what in earlier times, would be considered ordinary men (James Watt, Jethro Tull etc.) contributed to the idea that most, if not all european men could consider themselves superior to others. A role/attitude that was usually reserved for the monarchy.

Do toy think this is a valid train of thought?

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