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social Darwinism definitions

Merriam Webster's

noun Date: 1887 an extension of Darwinism to social phenomena; specifically a sociological theory that sociocultural advance is the product of intergroup conflict and competition and the socially elite classes (as those possessing wealth and power) possess biological superiority in the struggle for existence social Darwinist noun or adjective

Britannica Concise

Theory that persons, groups, and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection as C. Darwin had proposed for plants and animals in nature. Social Darwinists, such as H. Spencer and W. Bagehot in England and William Graham Sumner in the U.S., held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by "survival of the fittest," in Spencer's words. Wealth was said to be a sign of natural superiority, its absence a sign of unfitness. The theory was used from the late 19th cent. to support laissez-faire capitalism and political conservatism. Social Darwinism declined as scientific knowledge expanded.


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