The Theory of Social Darwinism

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By the late 1800’s, America was the richest and most powerful nation on Earth. The recent industrial developments and new strategies for banking and business led to America’s growing prosperity, and eventually the country had more millionaires in the late 1800’s than it had ever had before. Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, coined the term “survival of the fittest” for the era in his philosophy Social Darwinism. Along with the emergence of Herbert’s theory was the Gospel of Wealth, a thesis devised by Andrew Carnegie, which explains how money should be redistributed by the wealthy correctly, not blindly. Both of these theories received criticism, including those of Lester Frank Ward and Henry George. These criticisms, however, received no support because the rich elite had more organization and were supporters of Social Darwinism.

Social Darwinism emerged from Herbert Spencer during the late 1800’s as an explanation and philosophy to recent emergence of the rich upper class. America’s elite upper class’ numbers sky rocketed, and hiatuses between the rich and the not rich became huge. The quality of life between these two classes had major differences, and there was no strong middle class in between the two. To calm the questions of this, Herbert Spencer explained how things were how they were supposed to be. The theory of Social Darwinism consisted of an application of Darwinism to society. The hard working, smart, and vigilant would be propelled to the top of their class, while the weak, lazy, and uneducated would be “selected” out and put into poverty. The world would not work without these divides, Social Darwinists believed.

The Gospel of Wealth was soon written by Andrew Carnegie to provide more justification to the theory of Social Darwinism. Andrew Carnegie’s thesis explained how wealth should be redistributed through the rich. He provided a counter argument to those who believed the rich would become rich and hoard their money. He...
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