April 10, 2014
Sumner on Social Darwinism
William Graham Sumner believed that humanity ran on the rules of Social Darwinism. He believed in the idea of Survival of the Fittest. Using the idea that only those who are strong enough to survive in the world will prosper in life, he developed a few ideas on how that relates to poverty and inequality in the United States. He also had a few ideas on how the United States should deal with the freedom of the people. Sumner was most likely influenced to write this essay by the emerging unrest of the poor/working class. William Sumner was able to use the concept of Social Darwinism to, in a way, invalidate the hard work of the lower class.
Sumner believed that survival of the fittest explained why some people were inferior to other. He believed that the inequalities between men and women were based on nature. “Women (mothers) and children have special disabilities for the struggle with nature, and these disabilities grow greater and last longer as the civilization advances” (VF, p.33). Sumner thought that men were the head of the families by nature and that the family would thrive only if he did. Families were also “scientifically proven” to work better if the family were completely controlled by a male figure. This isn’t really surprising considering the time period. However, as a society we have started to grow past that and realize that misogamy is bad. The people living in the United States now have different values and ideas on how to deal with government aid to its citizens. In the Gilded Age it was considered a bad thing to ask for government assistance because most people believed that a person was responsible for their own fate in life. This idea was heavily influenced by the concept of Social Darwinism. That concept seemed to reinforce the social inequality in the United States. It gave the upper classes a way to refuse to give aid to the poor and to possibly comfort themselves...
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