Social Darwinism is the belief that all personal and social problems were inherited. The movement was named for Charles Darwin, a naturalist who theorized that organisms develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Herbert Spencer later described Darwin's theories as the "survival of the fittest." It is important to note that Charles Darwin was not associated with the theory of social Darwinism.
The proponents of social Darwinism believed poverty and many other social ills were the result of bad genes. In the 1920s, eugenics movements were popular in many countries, including the United States and Germany. Eugenics is the study of human improvement by genetic means. Many eugenicists saw themselves as visionaries who would one day create a world free of poverty, and physical and mental illness. Some American lawmakers cited eugenics in their efforts to limit immigration from Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Ireland.
Adolf Hitler’s racial theories were based on social Darwinism. “The stronger has to rule and must not mate with the weaker," Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf. “Only the born weakling can consider this cruel."
Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was an English naturalist and geologist who died many years before the idea of Social Darwinism were formed.
Herbert Spencer (1820 –1903) was an English philosopher best known for coining the expression “survival of the fittest."