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[mass noun] The theory that individuals, groups, and peoples are subject to the same Darwinian laws of natural selection as plants and animals. Now largely discredited, social Darwinism was advocated by Herbert Spencer and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism and to discourage intervention and reform.
- ‘In private Darwin complained about social Darwinism, which was being used to justify laissez-faire capitalism.’
- ‘Although they are often portrayed as apologists for social inequality, most evolutionary psychologists distance themselves from social Darwinism, racial eugenics and absolute genetic determinism.’
- ‘The popular form of social Darwinism readily became a facile assumption of racial superiority, linked to imperialism, as the popular press reported the successes of the many small-scale colonial military expeditions.’
- ‘Sumner was a fierce defender of social Darwinism and of free trade and, for this reason, was the only major economist who stayed out of the American Economic Association at its launching in 1885.’
- ‘Making the situation worse were the quasi-scientific theories of social Darwinism, which helped justify Congress's refusal to grant full citizenship to the territorial inhabitants.’
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