Get help now
  • Pages 10
  • Words 2278
  • Views 565
  • Download

    Cite

    Barney
    Verified writer
    Rating
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • 5/5
    Delivery result 3 hours
    Customers reviews 204
    Hire Writer
    +123 relevant experts are online

    Social darwinsim history Essay (2278 words)

    Academic anxiety?

    Get original paper in 3 hours and nail the task

    Get help now

    124 experts online

    Social Darwinism and its use to Justify Business Practices of the 19th andThesis: The need for a justification of enormous wealth of a few and anunimaginable poverty of millions was, as many tend to believe, fulfilled bythe emergence of a theory called Social Darwinism, which on one hand wasregarded as a primary defense of business activities, and on the other, wasI. Definition and origin of Social Darwinism III. Overemphasis on Social Darwinism B. Relied on Christian and other arguments During the late 19th, and early 20th century, the United States experienced agrowth of industry like it has never seen before. New patents and inventionsflourished.

    New products flooded the market. While thousands of poor,hungry, and unemployed crowded the streets, the rich were busy displayingtheir enormous wealth. Even though the need for reform was overwhelming,for the majority of Americans, nothing was being done. The big bosses wereable to buy off the politicians and persuade them to vote in their favor.

    Whilethe rich were getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, the politicianswatched. The need for a justification of the enormous wealth of a few and anunimaginable poverty of millions was, as many tended to believe, fulfilled bythe emergence of a theory called Social Darwinism, which on one hand wasregarded as a primary defense of business activities, and on the other, wasnothing more than a myth. Social Darwinism, the experts say, “was ashort-lived theory of social evolution, vigorously discussed in America,which rationalized and justified the harsh facts of social stratification in anattempt to reconcile them with the prevalent ideology of equalitarianism. Theemergence of Social Darwinism was perhaps the most visible effect on thesocial sciences of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species” (Tax and Krucoff402).

    In simple terms, Social Darwinism was an application (many believe amisapplication) of Charles Darwin’s laws of evolution and natural selection tohuman society. In his most famous book The Origin of Species, Darwinincluded four major arguments: that new species appear; that these newspecies have evolved from older species; that the evolution of species is theresult of natural selection; and “that natural selection depends upon variationsand the maintenance of variation in spite of the tendency of natural selectionto eliminate ‘unfit’ variants” (403). Darwin explains the process of naturalAs many more individuals of each species are born that can possibly survive;and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, itfollows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable toitself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will havea better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strongprinciple of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its newAccording to Darwin, natural selection is depended on the struggle forexistence among individuals. Any organism that is able to obtain thenecessary resources, often at the expense of other organisms, will survive,reproduce and pass on the “favored” qualities onto it’s offspring (the”principle of inheritance”). In short, the weak, “unfit” will die, and the strong,will continue its existence.

    This whole theory was summarized in one laconicphrase – “survival of the fittest. ” For almost a decade before Darwin’s TheOrigin of Species was the first published in 1859, a well educatedEnglishman named Herbert Spencer had been writing about the doctrine ofevolution. He was first ever to use the popular phrase “survival of the fittest”and was among the first to apply the doctrine of evolution to human society. Along with William Graham Sumner, they portrayed the society as an arenain which individuals struggled and where the fittest survived. They agreedthat from within societies, the businessmen proved to be the fittest. Sumneronce said, “The men who have not done their duty in this world never can beequal to those who have done their duty.

    . . . The class distinctions simplyresult from the different degrees of success with which men have availedthemselves of the chances which were presented to them.

    ” Their doctrinestated that the government should not interfere, and help the less fit (and bydoing so hurting the society). It should maintain a laissez faire policy. Therecould be no laws to help the poor. There could be no laws to regulate thebusinesses “for they created artificial barriers to natural selection of thestrongest firms. ” Competition would regulate the industry. Others followedwith their opposition to tariffs, trade regulations, state banking, governmentpostal services etc,.

    (Bryant, Jr. and Dethloff 253). Those, at that time verycontroversial issues, brought them, but especially Spencer, a lot of negativepublicity. In 1875, the economist John Elliott Cairnes announced thatSpencer “transferred laws of physiology to the domain of social science. ” Tenyears later, the Belgian sociologist, Emile de Laveleye added that Spencerwas “anxious to see the law of the survival of the fittest and of naturalselection adopted in human society.

    ” A number of intellectuals andsociologists had later accused Spencer and Summner of supporting the unjustand “brutally individualistic regime of Spencarianism” or Social Darwinism(Bannister 34-36) There were of course scholars who supported the ideas ofSpencer and Sumner. Even Charles Darwin who in his The Origin of Speciespurpously avoided the issues of social evolution later addressed them in hisbook The Descent of Man in a key chapter titled “On the Development of theIntellectual and Moral Faculties. ” Darwin recognized the argument that if onewere to apply the laws of “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” tosociety, should the society preserve it’s weaker members? The key passagefrom The Descent of Man reads as follows: With savages, the weak in bodyor mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit avigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmostto check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, themaimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exerttheir utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment. . .

    . Thus, theweak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who hasattended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must behighly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care,or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; butexcepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allowhis worst animals to breed (qtd.

    in Bannister 30) Clearly, even Charles Darwin wasn’t ignorant toward the reasoning behindSocial Darwinism. He never really stated whether he fully supported it orwere against it. Historians tend to believe that his opinion laid somewhere inbetween (Bannister 30-31). Social Darwinism in United States goes hand inhand with the Gilded Age and with the rise of the industry. The Gilded Age,the period from 1865 to 1901, was an era of great industrial and economicgrowth for America.

    It was an era of numerous inventions and patents. It wasalso an era of extreme riches for some, and of wretched poverty for others. Itwas an era of the “Robber Barons”, as Matthew Josephson called them. Oneof such “Robber Barons” was John D. Rockefeller. With his savings of$5,000, at a very young age John D.

    Rockefeller opened his first oil refinery. At that time oil was used only for lighting and not many expected much moreof it. Rockefeller, however, guessed that oil would in a few years become oneof the most profitable industries. He was correct — within only a few years,oil was being used for heating, lubrication, fuel for ships and automobiles,etc,. His dream was to control the whole oil industry in America.

    At age of30 he founded the Standard Oil Co. of Ohio and bought over 25 refineries. After only a couple of years, Rockefeller was one of the richest and mostpowerful men on the planet. Rumor had it, that he “had in the palm of hishand” the best United States Senators and state legislatures that money couldbuy. He not only controlled over 90% of the oil industry, but also was able topersuade railroad owners to grant him special fares on railroad transportation(rebates).

    Rockefeller was (what he and others called him) a true SocialDarwinist. He believed that everyone was given the same opportunity, andthat only those who were too lazy or too stupid were poor. He argued that hismillions were a reward for hard everyday work – the famous phrase “GodThe growth of large business is merely the survival of the fittest. . . .

    TheAmerican Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance whichbring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow uparound it. This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely theworking-out of a law of nature and a law of God. (qtd. in Hofstadter 45) Andrew Carnegie’s career was similar to that of John D.

    Rockefeller. “Hehad three specialties: steel, making money, and giving it away” (Cooke). Carnegie was a son of a poor weaver, born in Scotland. In 1848 his familycame to America and settled in Pittsburgh.

    He started his career at age of 12,as a bobbin boy. Then he became a telegraph messenger, a railroad clerk, arailroad superintendent, a director, and then, steel entered his life. He createda monopoly which throughout his career brought him over 400 milliondollars. Carnegie opposed the formation of pools and trusts; “His preferredsolution to the problems of consolidation was vertical integration. ” Heachieved almost a total control of the steel industry in the country. “His roadto success was speculation for accumulation” (Cashman 66).

    Similarly asRockefeller, Carnegie was also a Social Darwinist. He was known to idealizeHerbert Spencer’s theories of social evolution. Carnegie wrote in “PopularIllusions About Trusts”, “The concentration of wealth is an evolution fromthe heterogeneous to the homogeneous, and it is clearly another step in theupward path of development” (qtd. in Bannister 79). There of course wereothers besides Carnegie and Rockefeller. Those two, however, were the mostfamous and their careers most interesting.

    Perhaps it’s because theyrepresented the American myth of “rags to riches”; perhaps because aftermaking their millions, they gave most of their fortunes away. For Rockefellerit was starting the Rockefeller’s Foundation or the building of the Universityof Chicago. For Carnegie it was building libraries. “Carnegie believed that aman who dies rich, dies disgraced. By his means, he didn’t die disgraced”(“Andrew Carnegie: The Principles Illustrated by his Career” 5).

    With time,many Americans came to think that Social Darwinism was a chief defense ofthe unfair, ruthless and cut-throat business practices of the late 19th and theearly 20th century. “The great financial titans themselves seized on thetheories of Spencer and Sumner to justify their positions. . . . SocialDarwinism appealed to businessmen because it seemed to legitimize theirsuccess and confirm their virtues.

    It appealed to them because it placed theiractivities within the context of traditional American ideas of freedom andindividualism. ” (Current 506-507) – a quotation from a history textbook. Thisperception, Irvin G. Wyllie argues, is greatly exaggerated. In reality, only avery few elite entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegieoccasionally used Social Darwinism as an argument to justify their practices.

    Others, however, when called upon to justify their activities, fell upon oldarguments like Christian virtues and “moral platitudes,” that in no waycorrelated with Social Darwinism (Wyllie 157-169). It’s interesting to readabout men like Carnegie or Rockefeller, who regarded themselves as trueSocial Darwinists. Men who on one hand promoted the idea of regulatingindustry by competition (the very essence of social darwinism), and on theother devoted their lives to eliminating competition from within their ownindustries. Men who spent two thirds of their lives cheating, buying offpoliticians, and growing enormously rich at the price of making others poor.

    Men who then retired, and became philanthropists, and gave away hundredsof millions of their lifetime earnings. And finally men who were “bookish”and intelligent enough to use the theory of Social Darwinism to justify theirruthless and unfair business practices. Unfortunately, there were only veryfew men like that. Social Darwinism, was in fact only a “short-lived theory”;nothing more than a greatly overemphasized myth, given much more credit”Andrew Carnegie: The Principles of Industrial and Social ProgressIllustrated by His Career.

    ” The Monthly Bulletin Of the National City Bankof New York, Sept. 1919. Bannister, Robert C. Social Darwinism: Scienceand Myth in Anglo – American Social Thought. Philadelphia: Temple U P,1979.

    Bryant, Keith L. , and Henry C. Dethloff. A History of AmericanBusiness. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990.

    Cashman, Sean D. Americain the Gilded Age: from the Death of Abraham Lincoln to the Rise ofTheodore Roosevelt. New York: New York U P, 1984. Cooke, Alistar. “Money on the Land. ” Directed by: David Heycock, Chicago, 1984.

    Current,Richard N. et al. American History: a Survey. New York: Knopf, 1983. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species.

    New York: Random House, 1993. Hofstadter, Richard. Social Darwinism in American Thought. New York:George Braziller, Inc. , 1969. Krucoff, Larry S.

    and Sol Tax. “SocialDarwinism. ” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 1968 ed. Wyllie, Irvin g.

    “Social Darwinism and the Businessman. ” PivotalInterpretations of American History. Vol. II. ed. Carl N.

    Degler. New York:Bibliography:WORKS CITED: “Andrew Carnegie: The Principles of Industrial and Social ProgressIllustrated by His Career. ” The Monthly Bulletin Of the National City Bankof New York, Sept. 1919. Bannister, Robert C. Social Darwinism: Scienceand Myth in Anglo – American Social Thought.

    Philadelphia: Temple U P,1979. Bryant, Keith L. , and Henry C. Dethloff. A History of AmericanBusiness. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990.

    Cashman, Sean D. Americain the Gilded Age: from the Death of Abraham Lincoln to the Rise ofTheodore Roosevelt. New York: New York U P, 1984. Cooke, Alistar. “Money on the Land.

    ” Directed by: David Heycock, Chicago, 1984. Current,Richard N. et al. American History: a Survey. New York: Knopf, 1983.

    Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. New York: Random House, 1993. Hofstadter, Richard.

    Social Darwinism in American Thought. New York:George Braziller, Inc. , 1969. Krucoff, Larry S.

    and Sol Tax. “SocialDarwinism. ” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 1968 ed. Wyllie, Irvin g.

    “Social Darwinism and the Businessman. ” PivotalInterpretations of American History. Vol. II. ed. Carl N.

    Degler. New York:Harper & Row, 1966. 157-170.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

    Need custom essay sample written special for your assignment?

    Choose skilled expert on your subject and get original paper with free plagiarism report

    Order custom paper Without paying upfront

    Social darwinsim history Essay (2278 words). (2019, Jan 15). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/social-darwinsim-history-essay-70391/

    We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

    Hi, my name is Amy 👋

    In case you can't find a relevant example, our professional writers are ready to help you write a unique paper. Just talk to our smart assistant Amy and she'll connect you with the best match.

    Get help with your paper