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Social Darwinism generally refers to a sociological paradigm that draws on evolutionary theories to explain societal and racial development, progression, and stratification. Emerging in the late 19th century, it played a highly influential role throughout the development of Western thought and popular culture until the 1940s. Although now discarded due to its outdated evolutionary theories and associations with racist, sexist, and imperialist ideologies, remnants of social Darwinism continue to surface—for example, in contemporary debates on education and welfare reform and in popular texts like Richard Herrnstein’s and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve (1994). While social Darwinism has historically lent itself to applications that span the left–right political spectrum, politically leftist versions of it (i.e., the application of evolutionary theories to argue for egalitarian political–economic systems) ...

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