His 204: American history since 1865
June 9, 2008
Social Darwinism based on Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) theory of evolution was a term created in the late 19th century suggesting that humans were like animals and plants, in which they too battled for existence and the natural selection resulted in “survival of the fittest” in the world of business (MSN Encarta, 2008). Herbert Spencer (18201903) seen as an advocate of Social Darwinism had his own suppositions that were enhanced by Darwin's theories. Many wealthy American business owners also believed that natural selection proved their superiority in contrast to the poorer classes. However, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), an American industrialist and philanthropist, felt that wealth was not something one used to show superiority but modesty and generosity during life. In comparison, Spencer and Carnegies ideas concerning wealth and society’s social evolution differed greatly.
Herbert Spencer, a long time believer of evolution felt that progress was a series of changes that were inevitable during development regardless of whether it was a tree, a culture, or a business everything changes; that this law of organic progress is the law of all progress [ (Halsall, Modern history sourcebook: Herbert Spencer: Social Darwinism, 1857, 1997) ]. Human progress, according to Spencer, was nothing more than the result of more advanced individuals and cultures over their inferior competitors, progress aided in highlighting the differences among the classes. The rhetoric that Spencer conveyed was a way to justify class and race discrimination. Andrew Carnegie, however, felt that progress was not a way of differentiating the classes but essential for preserving the literature and the arts for all the refinements of civilization [ (Halsall, Modern history sourcebook: Andrew Carnegie: The gospel of wealth, 1889, 1997) ]. His belief was that it was better that not all were equal...