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12 - Darwinism and Social Darwinism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2019

Warren Breckman
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
Peter E. Gordon
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
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Summary

Whoever says “social Darwinism” says “survival of the fittest, in society as in nature.” There are good reasons to regret that the term ever acquired this meaning, and good historical studies to learn from in understanding how and why it nevertheless became the entrenched meaning. But there is also an oft-mentioned bad reason for regret, linked to bad history. Social Darwinism, it is sometimes said, has nothing whatever to do with Charles Darwin (1809–1882) or with the body of time-tested facts, theories, and practices deriving from Darwin’s work. On this view, Darwinism is science, and social Darwinism a pseudo-science masquerading as an application of Darwinism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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