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Title: Socialist Darwinism : the response of the Left to Darwinian evolutionary theory, 1880-1905
Author: Ogilvie, Caroline.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3455 3402
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2002
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Historiographically, Darwinian evolutionary theory in its application to political thought has generally been seen more as the domain of conservative and liberal, individualist and laissez faire apologists. The language of nature, in which individual struggle for existence resulted in the survival of the fittest, implied a natural process of progression, which human society could but emulate. However, such an analysis ignores the responses of those on the left of the political spectrum. Far from seeing little that was conducive to socialism in Darwinian evolutionary theory, many socialists embraced Darwinism. Unlike their political counterparts, they did not literally transfer the three central Darwinian tenets - natural selection, survival of the fittest, and struggle for existence - to human society. Instead, they attempted to explore fully Darwin's ideas and to reinterpret or to extend them for a social application, which took into account the essential difference between man and animal: viz. rational consciousness. This thesis specifically examines the response of two leading groups on the left, the Marxists and the Fabians, and it gauges how they utilised Darwinian theory to justify particular aspects of a socialist creed. It is shown that, although the Marxists' approach to Darwinism differed from that of the Fabians, ultimately neither strictly dichotomised man from animal on the basis of the development of mind. This however was not the case with the socialist and co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, who is also examined. It is clear from the extensive range of primary source material consulted, which includes the main Marxist and Fabian periodicals, that socialists consistently had recourse to Darwinian theory not only for scientific justification of the process of human development in the past, but also for validation of a future socialist society. There was therefore a genuine intellectual fusion that created Socialist Darwinism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political science