Social Darwinism is a term that originated in the 1870s to characterize a discredited application of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory to social and political development. Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been popularly equated with the role of the “survival of the fittest” in bringing about the gradual selection, often through ruthless competition for survival of not only biological characteristics but also social and behavioral patterns that favor allegedly superior individuals and groups. It was reasoned that if unfettered competition leads to progressive evolution, then restraints on competition, along with social welfare supports for dependent individuals, should be curtailed, and by doing so, the continued development of society would be assured. While some trace the roots of social Darwinism to Charles Darwin, most scholars ...

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