Malthus, Darwin, and Social Darwinism


Darwin's theory of natural selection was inspired in part by T. R. Malthus's principle of population expansion. This was linked to the ideology of free‐enterprise individualism, leading to claims that Darwin's theory reflected a similar ideology. Darwinism was certainly used to justify competitive social policies, but the relationship between science and ideology requires careful analysis.

Keywords: darwinism; ideology; struggle for existence; survival of the fittest


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Further Reading

Bowler PJ (1993) Biology and Social Thought, 1850–1914. Berkeley, CA: Office of the History of Science and Technology, University of California.

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Desmond A and Moore JR (1991) Darwin. London, UK: Michael Joseph.

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Peel JDY (1971) Herbert Spencer: The Evolution of a Sociologist. London, UK: Heinemann.

Rogers JA (1972) Darwinism and social Darwinism. Journal of the History of Ideas 33: 265–280.

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Bowler, Peter J(Sep 2006) Malthus, Darwin, and Social Darwinism. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005882]