Was Social Darwinism a beneficial set of beliefs?
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Most progressives thought not. First, Social Darwinism tended to accept, if not applaud, the suffering of the poor, as though it reflected their personal weakness rather than the structure of society. And second, Social Darwinism “evolved” into a reactionary type of white supremacy.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Social Darwinism and its associated eugenics merged with white American racialist beliefs that would later be considered racist or discriminatory. For example, in 1916 amateur anthropologist and lawyer Madison Grant published The Passing of the Great Race; or, The Racial Basis of European History. Grant propounded a theory of “Nordic Superiority” and argued for a public eugenic program to save the Nordics from being overrun by non-white racial groups. Grant’s book sold 1,600,000 copies by 1937. It was widely influential in individual beliefs and public policy that restricted immigration from Asia and discriminated harshly against African Americans.