The Many Faces Of Social Darwinism

1496 Words Mar 3rd, 2016 6 Pages
Kimberly Hollman HIS356K
March 3, 2016
The Many Faces of Social Darwinism
Hollman 1 of 5 The second half of the 19th century was a time of great flux in the United States. The impact of the Civil War perturbed all spheres of American domestic life, leaving its citizens in a state of anxiety regarding their beliefs, government, and even their fellow man. These changes happened concurrently with advances in the sciences: on the eve of the Civil War, Charles Darwin published his influential On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection was met with widespread acclaim and recognition, but was thereafter reappropriated to explain the dynamic and sometimes struggling socioeconomic condition of the United States. Endless interpretations of Social Darwinism crept into the collective consciousness as a philosophy backed by scientific evidence, affecting all spheres of life. Darwinism, and the progressive movement pushback, forced America to define and defend its beliefs regarding interpersonal dynamics on all levels, resulting in most Americans adopting a ‘pick and choose’ mentality towards the philosophy.
Social theorist Herbert Spencer, a contemporary to Darwin, was one of the most vocal proponents of Social Darwinism. Coining the term “Survival of the Fittest”, he proposed that there existed a natural order to society, where the strong- be it on an…

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