Rather than explain the political or social definition of Social Darwinism, its origins and its historical implications, I feel that a better understanding of the phrase “Social Darwinism” may be derived through an understanding of the fundamental philosophical principles at the heart of the theory. Such an analysis will show that Social Darwinism, far from being a political or social alignment, is a mere abbreviation of an on-going and all-consuming process within society, and one that is actually necessary to the long-term survival of the collective social organism.
As we are all aware, circumstances are constantly changing. Our society, and the universe in which it exists, are purely fluidic – water, not stone – continuously morphing through internal reaction. The implications of this are enormous. To survive in such a chaotic and unstable climate, we too must move like liquid, adapting and evolving in harmony with our changing environment; constantly morphing form one state to the next; always ready to challenge our current mode of thinking and pit it against those alternative, non-conformist elements which emerge within the collective. We must, at all times, be adaptive and flexible, and not at all dogmatic.
As individuals, as a society and as a species, we cannot afford ourselves to repress change and instability, lest we become stagnant and, inevitably, come into contradiction with our constantly fluctuating environment by being both unable, and unwilling, to adapt. To survive – to evolve – we must sacrifice stability, for this desire is fundamentally contradictory to the requirements of our long-term endurance.
For our own benefit, the elements of our society must, therefore, be allowed to constantly change through open debate, competition and refinement. New ideas must be allowed to emerge and grow stronger if and when the circumstances dictate that they are relatively more beneficial’ than their competitors, just as old ideas must be allowed to wane and perish as and when they become outdated and are no longer directly beneficial to their new environment. And, even then, we must always be prepared to return to these ideas in the future if and when it is beneficial to our survival to do so. For there is no backwards or forwards in evolution, merely relative change in accordance with your environment, and all notions of superiority or inferiority are purely relative concepts; as circumstances fluctuate, so too will the relative benefit or disability of different ideas. Thus, no strength lasts forever and even the most beneficial idea will eventually be rendered obsolete. We cannot assume anything and must not fall under the delusion that our present ideas are somehow immune to this requirement; to this need to change.
Put bluntly, without such internal competition and refinement, ideas and society will become stagnant. By subduing natural selection in the name of peace, stability and equality, mankind becomes both unable, and unwilling, to adapt; to accept the emergence of new, more beneficial ideas and/or the wane of their predecessors. Repressing natural selection in this way leads to the saturation of society by outdated or unchallenged ideas; it slows change and stagnates intellectual advancement. Such an attitude also breeds a reluctance to evolve and, consequently, causes us to become incompatible with our changing circumstances.
To achieve such flexibility as is required, the elements of our society must co-exist in open competition; influencing and transforming each other; some dying out while others grow more dominant. Thought must not exist in isolation protected, unchallenged, unquestioned, unrefined and stagnant but must instead be thrown helplessly into the intellectual smelting pot. It must react and compete with the other elements in order to stimulate adaptation. It must be questioned, challenged and opposed, crossing blades with all who contradict it. This is the only way to advance human thinking, as isolated ideas breed only stagnancy, while unchallenged ideas breed only ignorance.
Similarly, competition from radical elements and ideas is essential for social evolution, just as the emergence of genetic mutations aids biological evolution if and when such mutations are more beneficial. Consequently, if the different and the so-called insane’ are oppressed without cause, without allowing them battle, then society becomes motionless; unable and unwilling to embrace change and the emergence of new, radical ideas that break the conventional norm, and so which threaten to destabilise the comforting simplicity and immobility of post-modern thought.
The evolution of ideas and culture requires constant challenges to the normal and the expected, not a stable, stagnant society. No dogma should be accepted. We must all be inquisitive; ready to challenge everybody’s ideas, including our own; ready to adapt to new situations and environments; ready to think in new ways. Always we must be ready to change to adapt and to be flexible for it is only via this process of internal competition, refinement and flux that we, as a collective, are able to keep up with the constant changes going on all around us. As individuals, as a society and as a species, this process is essential to our long-term survival.
However, the process of natural evolution is simply not possible in post-modern society, where freedom of speech, thought and competition is oppressed in the name of stability, political correctness, fairness and equality. Where morality is an absolute; where to question and to offend is outlawed; where old ideas linger and new ones are exiled. Where the fluidic reality of the universe is terrifying to us; covered-up, denied and resisted. Today, far too many people strive to quell non-conformity and silence the radical minorities wherever they arise; to deny change and unrest, refusing to question themselves, thus achieving a degree of stability and comfort at the cost of social adaptability.
To evolve and survive, we must be free to speak out against each other, even to hate and to offend each other. For diversity of ideas alone is not enough; they must co-exist, compete and react in order to refine each other and so advance the collective, stimulating intellectual advancement; constantly steering us in new, beneficial directions as we change and evolve in harmony with our fluidic environment.
Society is a microcosm of the universe – a collective of diverse elements constantly reacting, competing and changing – stimulating collective change and evolution through internal refinement. This process, this “Social Darwinism”, is all-present and all-consuming and exists on every level of the cosmos; from the material refinements responsible for the emergence and extinction of entire species, to the social refinements responsible for the rise and fall of religions, ideologies, cultures, empires, individuals etc. It is the catalyst of history, of evolution and of life. Hence, this change, this apparent ‘chaos’ is required and, rather than arguing for or against its existence, we must merely accept it.
The inequalities, unfairness, instability, unrest, conflict and suffering that this process inevitably produces are merely by-products – mere manifestations – of this necessary and unpreventable fact.
These principles, and the exaggeration and application of these principles upon the collective, is the core of all Social Darwinian theory and practice.