Social Darwinism and Negative & Positive Eugenics

Social Darwinism is the idea that “natural selection should be allowed to take its course on the human species” (Leahey, 2018, p. 291), implying that governments should not support disadvantaged groups of people. According to the ideas of Social Darwinism, such a course of action will result in the perfection of humanity, while helping the ones who struggle will lead to degradation. One of the factors that helped the spread of Social Darwinism is that at first glance, this concept seems to be a natural and logical continuation of Darwin’s theory. These ideas were well received in conservative laissez-faire-oriented societies, as they allowed to freeze any social reforms and cement the status quo. These ideas benefited the elites who did not want any interference from governments with their businesses and wealth. Moreover, Social Darwinism also incentivized the society to restrict the disadvantaged and poor further, even regulating their reproduction. In the end, the ideas of Social Darwinism proved to be nothing but a non-professional application of analogies that had nothing in common with sociology, economics, biology, or any other science.

According to Leahey (2018, p. 293), “eugenics is the selective breeding of human beings to improve the species.” In that framework, Francis Galton called selective human breeding of the most talented people positive eugenics. Galton even tried to implement positive eugenics programs in the Great Britain, trying to gather the most talented people of the nation and incentivizing them to marry each other – but the idea was not considered seriously. On the other hand, negative eugenics is the regulation of reproduction of people “unfit” from their genetic perspective. There were attempts to implement policies forcing negative eugenics in Great Britain as well, yet they have never been severe.


Leahey, T.H. (2018). A history of psychology: From antiquity to modernity (8th ed.). Routledge.

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