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Social Darwinism

What Is Social Darwinism?

"Social Darwinists feared that the comforts of modern society, coupled to assistance to the poor, would lead to social degeneration and decadence. They preached ‘eugenicism’ as the answer, proposing ‘negative’ measures such as sterilization of the unfit, and/or ‘positive’ reforms such as encouragement of reproduction of the healthy. Some Social Darwinists felt that only strong leaders could prevent the masses from succumbing to a late 19th-century equivalent of couch-potato syndrome. Social Darwinists also believed that there was a struggle for domination between nation-states. Some felt that the fate of individuals was of little import compared to that of the nation" (37).

Kevin Passmore, Fascism: A Very Short Introduction, 37.

"Hitler himself adhered to all the premises of politicized biological racism. In Mein Kampf he sorted races into a hierarchy with Aryans at the summit, assumed that there was a Darwinian struggle for domination between races, and argued that there was a will to purity within each race. Individuals and social groups gained fulfilment through self-sacrifice for the good of the race.

"For Hitler, the Jews were engaged in a permanent struggle to undermine the Aryan race, especially by promoting cosmopolitan capitalism and communism, and encouraging war between ‘healthy’ nations. Hitler also saw prostitution as a means for Jews to corrupt Aryans through transmission of syphilis. Indeed, all hereditary diseases were said to be spread by Jews. Hence his advocacy of eugenicist solutions to the racial question: selective breeding, sterilization of the unfit, welfare legislation for the sound elements of the population, and encouragement of healthy women to reproduce. Hitler did not speak of extermination, but the language he used to describe Jews – bacilli, leeches, parasites – could, and did, legitimate extermination. Antisemitism, eugenicism, anticapitalism, and anticommunism were different aspects of the same policy" (111).

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