Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism is the theory that explains that human groups and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection that Charles Darwin had perceived in plants and animals in nature. According to the theory, which was very popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the weakest were reduced, and their cultures delimited, while the strong grew in power and cultural influence over the weak. Social Darwinists argued that human life in society was a struggle for existence governed by the "survival of the fittest", a phrase proposed by the British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer.

Social Darwinism

Related topics

Social ecology, cultural evolution

What is social Darwinism?

It was a series of theories that tried to apply biological concepts to society and politics based on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and whose basic idea is the survival of the most appropriate in relation to social evolution.

About the theory of Social Darwinism

The theory consists of explaining the origin and evolution of all species that exist in the world and was received positively in the nineteenth century by the imperialist and colonialist countries. Social Darwinism is a pseudoscientific theory born out of natural selection and Darwin’s struggle for survival. It is the assertion that social evolution can be explained through biological evolutionary laws.

It is the biological equivalent of bourgeois philosophy, where the doctrine of free competition is the economic manifestation and that the struggle for existence is the struggle to satisfy all human needs. In the competition of power arises the best and the one who has more capacity to govern.


Charles Darwin was the first person to observe evolution as a process through which variations and natural selection determine whether an individual should exist or disappear. Natural selection is a survival process of organisms to live in a given environment, and it is by this process that populations are altered, and new spices emerge, adapted to survive in the environment.

We can say that it emerged in the nineteenth century when Europeans were looking for ways to expand capitalism and conquer new lands and used power to conquer Africa and Asia, for Europeans, they occupied the highest part of evolution and therefore were more apt to dominate other peoples.

Social Darwinism was used in international relations and colonial rule in the late 19th century. The industrial revolution and its military applications created a division among the countries of the world. On the one hand, there were the strongest nations and on the other, the weakest.

For their part, Nazism and fascism used social Darwinism to defend their theory of inequalities between individuals, with the terrible consequences we all know.


Social Darwinism was raised by Herbert Spencer. He interpreted natural selection as “the survival of the fittest” and managed to incorporate it into the field of sociology. In this way, Spencer defended that innate characteristics or those that are inherited could have a greater influence than education or acquired characteristics. This position can be mobilized by evil, ignorance, but it was erroneous and perverse, and on the basis of this moral perversion the capitalists justified social inequalities.


Darwin used four elements to formulate his theory and these were:

Social Darwinism by country


Some of the consequences of social Darwinism are:

Criticism of Social Darwinism

The main criticism made to Darwinism was that the theory had been raised from the field of evolutionary biology and had enormous potential as an ideological justification to place the value of one race over another, of the rich over the dispossessed, of the literate over the ignorant.

It then functioned as a milestone in addition to competition, motivated inequality and exploitation for capitalist production and affirmed that it was the way forward to achieve human progress from a positivist perspective.


Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Social Darwinism. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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