Social Darwinism and Social Welfare in the United States





Social Darwinism and Social Welfare in the United States


The interplay and relationship between Social Darwinism and Social Welfare in the United States typify the nation’s struggle to make the best of a capitalist society, while at the same time correcting pitfalls. Social Darwinism in our capitalist society compares wealth with fitness, but historically, unregulated markets given the false sanction of natural law have proven out that Darwinist economic competition has a destructive side for society. The role of raw power, the frequency of failure and the spirit of want has out of necessity, fostered a fiscal and monetary policy defined as social welfare, in order to conserve some commitment and core of resistance to the corrosive impact of market power on the nation’s social bonds. Social welfare emerged out of the fray, a public drive to provide the salve of predictability in the private sector. Both of these instruments of American society are in interconnected and independent.
In order to comprehend the present state of these two forces, it is necessary to analyze more completely the meanings of Social Darwinism and Social Welfare. Every since Charles Darwin published the Origin of the Species in 1859, social scientists have attempted to explain human behavior as a product of natural selection. In the 19th century, Social Darwinism held that history was about the “survival of the fittest” and “superior” social groups were evolutionary more fit to rule the world. Social Darwinism was at the heart of many pernicious theories of the past century, including scientific racism and eugenics (Goldfield, et al, 1998, p. 721).
Social Welfare, as a government program designed to support broad groups of people, began in Germany in 1883 (Martin, 1972, p. 37). By the 1930\'s most of worlds’ industrial nations had government sanctioned, comprehensive social welfare programs, as well a highly active private sector welfare network shaped by the increasing power of organized labor (Sexton, 1991, p. 76). The rise of labor, according to sociologist, and anthropologist Patricia Cayo Sexton, was largely in response to the pressures imposed upon workers by entrepreneurs capitalizing on the Industrial Revolution. The latter lobbied heavily against a social welfare state on the premise that it violated the concepts of Social Darwinism and of capitalist laissez faire. As Sexton notes, the mood of the day permeated throughout American ideology, even in the justice system. “The law upheld hostile employer acts but punished those of labor; according to historian Irving Bernstein, no other advanced nation in the world had conducted industrial relations with ‘such defiance’ . . . ” (Sexton, 1991, p. 73)
Herein lay the conflict of pure Social Darwinism. The struggle was the law of life, in the financial markets as Darwin’s biological pool. Men fed upon men; The fittest survived and the weak were their rightful prey. At the post Civil war height of laissez faire, the most greedy robber barons invoked Social Darwinism to collect hundreds of millions of dollars, benefitting from what many considered unfair advantages. In fact, a recent ranking of the forty wealthiest Americans of all time shows that only three of them did not make their fortunes during the Industrial Revolution (Klepper, Gunther, 1998, p. 56).
By the late nineteenth century, the growth of huge monopolistic corporations created concentrations of power controlling most commodities as oil, railroads, steel, agriculture, and the banks that funded them. They were accountable to no one and needed by everyone (Goldfield, et al, 1998, P. 564-573). Child labor was a regrettable by product of Social Darwinism. Nearly one-third of the textile force in the southern United States in the early 1900\'s consisted of children under the age of 14 and women (Goldfield, et al, 1998, p. 569).
Eventually, such negative impacts provoked public alarm, fueled as well by public horror over the consequences of Social Darwinism charging Hitler’s attempt to secure domination and build a supreme race. The result during the United States postwar decades was development of social ideas in economic thought, making fundamental departure from the pure, Social Darwinist doctrine and creating a rationale for welfare state. Americans by this time likewise longed for a coherent vision of urban life to replace the chaotic outcomes for the believers of Social Darwinism. Regulated, consumer-based capitalism