In Our Time

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas


Social Darwinism

February 20th, 2014

Episode 356 of 552 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Social Darwinism. After the publication of Charles Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859, some thinkers argued that Darwin's ideas about evolution could also be applied to human society. One thinker particularly associated with this movement was Darwin's near-contemporary Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest'. He argued that competition among humans was beneficial, because it ensured that only the healthiest and most intelligent individuals would succeed. Social Darwinism remained influential for several generations, although its association with eugenics and later adoption as an ideological position by Fascist regimes ensured its eventual downfall from intellectual respectability. With: Adam Kuper Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the LSE, University of London Gregory Radick Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds Charlotte Sleigh Reader in the History of Science at the University of Kent. Producer: Thomas Morris.

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