Social Darwinism

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The main proposals put across by Social Darwinism is that people in a society – and societies themselves – must compete for survival. Also, that some individuals within species are more predominant than others due to their inherited characteristics and favourable traits. Therefore, when these concepts progressed from the public view into European politics, it gave an all too easy motive for combatant nations to become aggressive.

At the time which Social Darwinism became popular in politics, the nations of Europe were entangled in a colonial battle. Nations and political leaders believed the terms of this principle gave them justification to conquer inferior lands. When mitigating colonialism, politicians such as the German Kaiser Wilhelm II alleged that it was their entitlement as large, wealthy, and ‘fit' nations to dominate the less ‘fit' races of their colonies. Where Germany was concerned, Social Darwinism played a considerable role in their forgein policy as an up-coming power in Europe. In 1890, when the Kaiser forced PM Otto Von Bismarck to resign, his fairly cautious policy of Realpolitik resigned with him, leaving vacancy for the Social Darwinist induced Weltpolitik of the Kaiser. This world policy collided with all conservatism, Kaiser Wilhelm II and claimed that Germany should become a German Kaiser world power with a strong 1888-1918 army and large colonial empire – with naval

power to protect it.
The Kaiser saw it as Germany's right to compete in the colonial market, as they were competent and deserved a share in the less ‘fit' nations. Above all, the Kaiser wanted "a place in the sun" for the German people. The problem was the only places left were in the shade. There was very little room left for new colonization in the early part of this century. This caused tension on several levels.

Germany was left with but the remnants of the colonial crusade. She was vengeful towards Britain especially, resentful for her vast empire and powerful European status. Propagandist movements such as the Pan-German League and the German Colonial League churned out propaganda to influence the German people and the Kaiser, that Germany would become a second rate power if she did not make imperialistic actions. Through Social Darwinism, this would mean succumbing to the more ‘powerful' nations, and failing to compete in the struggle for survival. Britain on the other hand (also other significant powers such as France and Russia) felt threatened by the rise of this challenging and aggravated nation. Germany had already upset Europe's ‘balance of power', and proved herself to be a prevalent power in Europe, now she set out to conquer other parts of the world and to contest with Britain's status. Where the large powers were not concerned, the colonies were feeling strangled and also felt resentment towards their over-lords. These ill feelings left Europe in two rival parties, contending for European and world dominance. It also lead to such events as the 1908 Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis and the 1911 Agadir incident.

All of the above factors lead to the alarming military build up and mobilisation of the European powers. Social Darwinism had so far justified why the nations colonised the ‘inferior' nations and races, but along the way, had caught Europe up in a tangled web of deceit and antagonism. The nations were now ready to expand their navies, armies, and prepare to engage in war. Germany and Britain proved to be the major competitors in the arms race, each intensifying their fighting machines to a phenomenal level. Up until the year in which war broke out, the powers increased military spending in order to remain the ‘fittest' of the European nations.

Social Darwinism had played its part in the initial aggravation of these opponent nations, by claiming that life was a competition for supremacy and survival of existence. Nations attempted rapid take-over of foreign lands...
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