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Social Darwinism is not really something that many people believe in today.  It is more common to talk about Social Darwinism in the past tense because many people believed in it roughly a century ago.  Social Darwinism was the idea that human beings (both as individuals and groups) have to...

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Social Darwinism is not really something that many people believe in today.  It is more common to talk about Social Darwinism in the past tense because many people believed in it roughly a century ago.  Social Darwinism was the idea that human beings (both as individuals and groups) have to compete for survival in the same way that plants and non-human animals do.  Because humans also have to compete to survive, they are subject to natural selection.  This means that those people who prosper do so because they are the “fittest.”

Social Darwinism got its name from Charles Darwin.  Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, which holds that plants and animals have to compete to survive.  The process of natural selection picks the individuals and species that survive.  Therefore, the survivors are simply naturally better for the environment in which they live (they are the fittest).

Social Darwinism held that people were the same way.  An individual who succeeded in life (who, for example became rich or powerful) must have done so because they were better than those who did not.  A society that became rich and powerful did so because it was superior to the poorer and weaker societies.  The same was true of a race that came to have more power. 

This was a very important idea because it implied that inequality was completely justified.  If some people were poor and others were rich, that was natural.  It happened because people got what they deserved.  If whites, for example, were better-off than blacks, it was because they were racially superior.  All of this meant that there was no need for the government to try to do anything about inequality.  This is one reason why Social Darwinism was a major theory that underpinned the society and politics of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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