Spencer’s “Social Darwinism” centred around two fundamental principles:
The Principle of “Survival of the Fittest”:
According to Spencer, nature is endowed with a providential tendency to get rid of the unfit and to make room for the better. It is the law of the nature that the weak should be eliminated for the sake of the strong. He believed that the rapid elimination of unfit individuals from society through natural selection would benefit the race biologically.
It is for this reason that the state should do nothing to relieve the conditions of poor, whom Spencer assumed to be “less fit.” By less fit, Spencer meant less healthy and less intelligent than the social norm.
According to Spencer, stupid persons, people with vices and idleness, people who become victims of sickness and deformity and such other persons belong to the category of less fit. Due to the operation of the laws of evolution only the “more fit” persons will survive and the “less fit” ones will decline on their own. By this, Spencer did not, however, mean that “widows and orphans should be left to struggle for life or death.” He was only opposed to governmental assistance to the “less fit.” But he did not oppose individual philanthropy.
As a strong supporter of individualism Spencer maintained that “the economic system works best if each individual is allowed to seek his own private interests and that consequently the state should not intervene in the economy.
The Principle of Non-interference:
Spencer who championed the ideology of Social Darwinism also became a very strong advocate of individualism and laissez-faire politics. Spencer opposed almost all forms of state interference with private property. “He insisted that the state had no business in education, health and sanitation, postal service, money and banking, regulation of housing conditions or the elimination of poverty. Money used for such activities could better be spent “to support labourers employed in new productive works – land – drainage, machine building, etc.”
According to Spencer, state was just like a joint stock company, whose primary business was protection of the rights of individuals and defending the interests of its citizens against external aggression.
Views of Comte were different in this regard. He was of the opinion that the sociologist-priests should be actively involved in the social world – “to reform and to change it.” Spencer on the other hand, argued – “sociologists should convince the state and the citizens not to intervene in the natural process of selection operative in society.
Nature is more intelligent than man, he argued, and “once you begin to interfere with the order of nature there is no knowing where the result will end. The good society, according to Spencer, is thus, based completely upon contracts between individuals pursuing their respective interests unhindered by the state interference.
1. The theory of “Social Darwinism” got wide publicity during the second half of the 19th century especially in Europe and America. The theory was being used to justify the imposition of the politico-economic domination of the whites over non-whites. It thus became an ideological theory for justifying the exploitation of exploiters and for protecting the vested interests of the imperialists.
2. This theory “had racial overtones with the belief that some races, being innately superior, were bound to triumph over inferior ones.
3. The principle of the “survival of the fittest” indirectly supports the status quo, inactivity and idleness. As per this principle, nature itself plays the role of the selector. It supports the fittest and leaves the less fit to decadence.
4. The theory does not take into account an enormous increase in the population especially in the Asian nations like India, China, Bangladesh and the like. In these nations, we find a large number of people being born in the category of poor, and the labour class. Why the principle of the “survival of the fittest” is not operating in these nations? There is no answer.
5. This theory does not take into account that people in the category of the poor and labour class are suffering from problems and seem to be “less fit ones”, not because they are basically incapable and less fit, but they have become the victims of socially organised coercions.
6. “As an argument, Social Darwinism is deeply flawed and has little, if any, credibility among with contemporary social scientists. As such, it could always be used to justify the status quo, beginning with racial and other forms of social oppression and imperialism. ”
7. In the circle of social theorists, the theory of Social Darwinism, exists only pejoratively,
8. The views of “Social Darwinism”, however, are occasionally continued in the form of “sociobiology.”