Social Darwinism and Contemporary Politics

Social Darwinism (not actually supported by Charles Darwin) was a term generated by philosopher and biologist Herbert Spencer, and aims to link biological principles of natural selection to political and sociological ideas.

Social Darwinians do not believe in the welfare system, but prefer the idea that you should survive off the wealth of your family and friends, therefore making your wealth proportional to your family’s wealth. Consequently, if you were born rich then everything is great, if you were not….well, sorry.

The idea of ‘survival of the richest’ is that if you were not born rich, then you cannot become rich. In order to be successful, you must be born to successful people. In this way, it is suggested that your place in society is predetermined, and unchangeable.

Despite the common, modern belief that success is not dependent on where you were born or how much your parents earn, it’s impossible to deny that most of the people occupying the highest level of power within this country (namely, the Conservatives) were privately educated, and come from successful and wealthy families. So, although success can be achieved  regardless of upbringing, is there a cap on how much you can achieve, if you are from a poorer economic background?

Social Darwinism also raises the question of race, and superiority, due to natural selection. This, in turn, led to the type of social cleansing seen in Fascist countries, such as Hitler’s Germany, as the Aryan race were idealized, and the Jews were seen as inferior, and therefore removed from society in the hopes of creating a universally ‘prefect’ race.

Although not as obvious now, social Darwinism still seems to be present within contemporary society: the belief that people of other ethnic backgrounds entering this country are only capable of low skilled jobs, or not working at all. The fact that second and third generations of foreign families are still seen as ‘immigrants’. The idea, no matter how untrue, that people of non-British nationalities can’t rise to positions of success and power within Britain.

Social Darwinism is still very much present in contemporary politics: the idea that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor, and the reductions in the benefits system show a clear economic hierarchy, and the seeming impossibility of an egalitarian society within the near future is ever present.

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