What is Social Darwinism?

Definition: Social Darwinism applies Charles Darwin’s theories to social dynamics. To sum up, it explains the evolution of social interaction through natural selection theories.

What Does Social Darwinism Mean?

Social Darwinism was brought up in the 19th century and it was founded in the free market environment of that time. This theory applies Darwin hypothesis about biology to human society by stating that social development of certain groups is the product of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. This means that certain social groups will rise above others because of evolution, which is the way these groups adapt to new environment conditions through the survival of the fittest.

This concept is said to work under laissez faire conditions (freedom to act that allow individuals to pursue their self-interests). Under these circumstances it is theorized that the interaction between social participants will make way for a superior group that has the ability to survive the environment conditions. It has been argued by some detractors of this theory that by applying social Darwinism undesired social situations, like racism, can be easily rationalized and accepted.

Here’s an illustration of this theory.


Let’s say there is a rural society living in the jungle. This small tribe sustains itself by hunting animals. The men are in charge of hunting wild animals while women and kids will be in charge of basic agricultural activities. The animals that surround the community are big and though to catch, this means that well-trained, in-shape individuals, will be the ones that hunt the most. According to social Darwinism, what would be the social structure of this particular community?

As we explained previously, social Darwinism is the application of Charles Darwin theories to social dynamics. This means that, in this situation, men with the best hunting scales, highly-trained and experienced will raise above other groups in society, since they are the ones that has the most chances to survive under the current environmental circumstance.