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Social Darwinism

  • By: Barney Warf
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Although Charles Darwin himself never sought to apply his ideas of evolution through natural selection to the social world, numerous advocates of Darwinism selectively and erroneously applied this line of thought to the analysis of cultural relations. Thus, The Origin of Species, published in 1859, was enormously influential not only in the biological sciences but in the social sciences as well. The (mis)application of Darwin's ideas to social analysis is called social Darwinism, and its effects were enormous as well as uniformly reactionary. Some of its tenets preceded Darwinism itself, including, for example, the works of Thomas Malthus. By posing as a science, the pseudoscience of social Darwinism dismissed criticisms as unscientific. The heyday of social Darwinism occurred in late-Victorian Britain and in the United ...

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