In what ways did Social Darwinism attempt to justify the concentration of wealth?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that misreading of Darwinism did much to justify efforts of capitalists to keep, maintain, and increase their wealth in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  The premise of the philosophical idea was the idea of "survival of the fittest," suggesting that what was earned was done so through a sense of intense work and fierce means of survival.  It precluded to discuss how the few who exercised economic power did so through ensuring that the rules or logistics of capitalism and government favored them in a massive manner while disempowering many others.  The idea of "survival of the fittest" helped to bring out the idea that those who were rich should not be made to feel ashamed of their wealth, invoking the idea that survival is "tough" and those who gained money as a process reflected this element of austerity and hard work.  It helped to create the belief that the ruling economic elite did so because they were somehow "more fit" than others.  Social Darwinism in this light helped to justify the concentration of wealth, creating the paradigm that wealth represented diligent work and a sense of thoroughness in what was done.  It failed to acknowledge that many of the small percentage that enjoyed a concentration of wealth only was able to do so by ensuring that the rules of the game favored them over others.  Yet, in suggesting that economic success was a matter of "survival," it became evident that Social Darwinism was more concerned with masking this unfair advantage in the name of "hard work" as the sole function of wealth acquisition and economic power.