[lit-ideas] Re: Social Darwinism or Darwinian Socialism?

  • From: "Stan Spiegel" <writeforu2@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 00:26:57 -0500

John -

I think your description of social darwinism give s a pretty sugar-coated version of its real usage:
which is to justify social inequality, even racism, in its application to the idea of the "survival of the fittest." Your definition is much closer to a description of evolution. We might as well speak of evolution and progress. Why use such a Byzantine term as "social darwinism" if that's all that is meant?

Portland, ME

----- Original Message ----- From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, December 28, 2005 11:51 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Social Darwinism or Darwinian Socialism?

On 12/29/05, Andy Amago <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I'm open to correction, but I think when you say that government aids and
abets one group and hurts another, I think you're talking about some
catalyst.  That would be almost an Intelligent Design Social Darwinism.  I
think Hitler would have thought that the German people are *inherently*
superior.  They don't need government to help them.  It's their right and
their destiny as superior Germans to expand into other countries and
conquer them.  Like the British did with their colonies.  Big dog eats
small dog.  Except that we're not dogs.  People behaving like amebas or
dogs is, what?  I'm at a loss.  It's why Hitler thought the German people
deserved to die, because they lost the war, they were weak.  Social
Darwinism is a barbaric philosophy.

Returning to Geary's original point. Social Darwinism is misnamed since its usual form, found in Herbert Spenser, et.al., envisions evolution as a unilineal process leading from the primitive to "us" (whoever us may be), who represent the current pinnacle of progress. In Darwin's theory, evolution is envisioned as a tree, with limbs and branches representing adaptation to specific, highly various ecological niches.

What is implicit, however, in both ways of viewing evolution is the
substitution of change and transformation over time for the static
categories of the Medieval Great Chain of Being in which, for example,
Kings, Aristocrats, Commoners, and Slaves are seen as occupying fixed
and immovable positions in a natural hierarchy.

The key idea embraced by Social Darwinists is the one that still
informs most thinking about the nature of corporations and,
increasingly, the way in which we see ourselves: Either we grow or we
die. Applied to nation states, the implication is clear. Either the
territory under the nation's control is expanding or the nation is
moribund, waiting to be devoured by younger and still aggressive
nations. Applied to corporations, it becomes the management mantra
that without innovation that creates new markets or captures new ones,
the company is doomed. Sublimated in the self-images of liberal
intellectuals, it becomes the notion that we must constantly be
learning, acquiring new knowledge or advancing into new intellectual
terrain. For hardy athletic types it may mean lifting heavier weights
or running a bit faster. Weight lost is seen as adding social capital.
Growth equals acquisition, and if we aren't growing we are either dead
or might as well be.
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