Social Darwinism

Karl Marx, in his analysis of classism or “class antagonism” and “class conflict” in Western societies, contended that “political power” itself “is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society.” It follows that in a society that is “founded on the opposition of classes” such as the West, the removal of all class differences and class antagonisms – including political power and politics – must take place in order for normal “social evolutions” to take the place of “political revolutions” per se. As Marx argued:

“It is only in an order of things in which there are no more classes and class antagonisms that “social evolutions” will cease to be “political revolutions.” Till then, on the eve of every general reshuffling of society, the last word of social science will always be: Combat or death: bloody struggle or extinction. It is thus that the question is inexorably put.” 

Arguably, the class conflict or class struggle which Marx had made as the core or center of his philosophical thought is part of a broader philosophical or social science concept which I had highlighted in the past, namely, the concept known as “Social Darwinism.” I was introduced to the concept or idea of “Social Darwinism” as a college student during a “Constitutional Interpretation” class when the professor was discussing a famous U.S. ‘Supreme Court’ (SCOTUS) case which involved collective bargaining and labor union strikes against greedy corporate bosses and employers during the first half of the 20th century. 

“Social Darwinism” is very much the “social science concept” that encompasses and relates to the passage from Marx which I wrote above. Western political and social life amounts merely to a “bloody struggle” for survival, and only the richest and strongest can survive this struggle, so the theory goes. And based on this theory, the reason for why certain groups and individuals in society are richer and stronger than others is that these groups and individuals are “innately better” than all others.  

Trumpian politics, for instance, emerged out of this ‘Social Darwinistic’ backdrop or background which consisted of wars, the gutting of government coffers which benefitted a few Washington insiders, financial crises, and so forth. Trump is very much the face of a brutal struggle for survival which characterizes and defines the very basic nature of Western political and social life that Marx had highlighted. The deliberate gutting of government coffers which negates the ability of governments in Western societies to help the poor and working classes is predicated upon the erroneous and false notion that the rich and strong are superior over all others and that it is pointless to help people who are inherently or “innately” weaker and inferior. 

And as certain folks have noted, the theory of “Social Darwinism” is a misapplication of a biological or natural science theory to areas of social life such as economics and politics. Even the emerging “capital-income ratio” which has seen the share of the world’s wealth belonging to the top one percent grow from 30 percent in 1989 to more than 50 percent today is encompassed by the theory known as “Social Darwinism.” Thus, the theory of Social Darwinism pervades virtually all aspect of American life and has been exported overseas as well. Yet, it is a theory which is either downplayed, ignored, or overlooked amidst our public discourse. And arguably, if we are to address what we see on the surface of American economic, political, and social life, then we must address the philosophical or psychological underpinnings of these various issues in order to understand how these issues emerged to the surface and how they are to be addressed and overcome. 

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