Monday, September 2, 2019
Social Darwinism in American Politics Essay -- Social Darwinism Essays
Introduction Social Darwinism is a quasi-philosophical, quasi-religious, quasi-sociological view that came from the mind of Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher in the 19th century. It did not achieve wide acceptance in England or Europe, but flourished in this country, as is true of many ideologies, religions, and philosophies. A good summary of Social Darwinism is by Johnson: In these years, when Darwin's Origin of Species, popularized by Herbert Spencer as "the survival of the fittest, " and applied to races as well as species in a vulgarized form, Social Darwinism, the coming Christian triumph was presented as an Anglo-Saxon Protestant one. Social Darwinism is by no means dead, for vestiges of it can be found in the present. What Is "Darwinism?" Charles Darwin was an English biologist who, along with a few others, developed a biological concept that has been vulgarized and attacked from the moment his major work, The Origin of Species, was published in 1859. An accurate and brief picture of his contribution to biology is probably his own: Evolution is transmission with adaptation. Darwin saw in his epochal trip aboard the ship The Beagle in the 1830s what many others had seen but did not draw the proper conclusions. In the Galapagos Islands, off South America, Darwin noted that very large tortoises differed slightly from one island to the next. He noted also that finches also differed from one geographical location to the next. Some had shorter beaks, useful for cracking seeds. Some had long, sharp beaks, useful for prying insects out of their hiding places. Some had long tail feathers, others short ones. Darwin took copious notes, captured insects and animals and selected plants. These he preserved in jars and took them back to England where he thought about the implications of what he had seen. for almost three decades. What occurred to him was a simple notion: animals, plants, insects, fishes, etc., which were obviously related differed slightly and these differences seemed to be tied in with their ability to survive. Differences, which he called "adaptations," were often related to geographical factors. He also saw something similar in fossils: certainly some fish, sea shells, etc., that died and were covered up by sand, gradually turned to stone, and were caught forever in fossil form. There seemed to b... ...le for a "net" that would not allow any individual to lapse into abject poverty, homelessness on a wide scale, hunger or destitution. However, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was elected on a platform which declared that New Deal policies were responsible for poverty, crime, and all other social problems. Government, Reagan kept on repeating, was not any part of a solution to the problem. Government was the problem. Therefore, a good many policies based upon the "net" concept were weakened or simply eliminated. It is not accurate to say that 19th century Social Darwinism, "Reaganomics," New Deal philosophy or its manifestation in the economic policies of President Clinton is now dominant. A fair assessment is that all of these ideologies can be found within our society--as public policy and as belief structure. The ability of conflicting, incompatible social philosophies to live side by side, even within the same person, (cite) explains why there is so much unresolved conflict, why it is difficult for a given bit of social policy to achieve permanence. why, as many have pointed out, there is considerable poverty in the wealthiest society in the world.