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Social Darwinism in American Thought

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  214 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Social Darwinism in American Thought portrays the overall influence of Darwin on American social theory & the notable battle waged among thinkers over the implications of evolutionary theory for social thought & political action. Theorists such as Herbert Spencer & Wm Graham Sumner adopted the idea of the struggle for existence as justification for the evils as well as the ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Beacon Press (Boston) (first published January 1st 1955)
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J.M. Hushour
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever wondered why we're such unthinking assholes, this, along with some lay histories of the period 1865-1920, can help you find the answer.
Reel at the conclusions that philosophical assholes like Sumner and Spencer reached in the wake of Darwin's revolution. Recoil in horror from the development, pre-Ayn "Shitbeak" Rand, of acquisitive individualism, the natural order of greed, and the idea that poor people just suck by nature. Be astonished at the growth of ideas of inherency and rac
Bob Nichols
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent intellectual history of Darwinian thought as applied to U.S. sociological theory in the late 19th century. Though the focus is here, the book’s title misleads somewhat. Social Darwinism was pulled in to bolster the already existing current of “Anglo-Saxonism” that, Hofstadter writes, “was a product of modern nationalism and the romantic movement rather than an outgrowth of biological science.” Anglo-Saxonism was an amalgam of white racial superiority and imperialism on the o ...more
Sean Chick
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
A true classic. The conclusion is heartbreaking, since circa 2013 social Darwinism has been resurrected and prettied up as libertarianism.
Otto Lehto
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
The Dragon was defeated. Social Darwinism has disappeared. Good riddance.

But this is a partial story. The cost of the hunt was dear. In slaying the roaring beast, Hofstadter and the progressive generation of scholars paved the way for the wholesale abandonment of evolutionary theories in the social sciences, economics, and the humanities. I believe that the sunset of Darwinism led to two problems: 1) an unchecked rise in collectivism (the normative failure) and 2) an unchecked rise in bad model
Shane Avery
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
His first published book. More impressive scholarship than both his later Age of Reform & The Idea of a Two-Party System, perhaps combined. Why? Originally written in 1940-42, published in 44. "Completely rewritten" for the revised edition, curiously, for the author was "jarred by the rhetoric of the original version." Might be interesting to take a look at the original text.

In the context of what came before it, the progressive/reform consensus moment in American thought rejected individualism
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
As a basic documentation of the way evolutionary thought is absorbed and adapted into American thought, it's a nice treatment. Definitely an intellectual history in the style of the time, though, focusing mostly on key, university-based figures rather than on broader publics or communities. Nor does it move towards any greater theorizing about the reasons evolutionary thinking transformed so quickly into social darwinism in the U.S.

The chapter I liked most is the exploration of the way evolution
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The best of Hofstadter's books.
Gilbert Wesley Purdy
An exceptional short overview of this topic. Lots of meat. Hofstadter always out performs.
Jul 02, 2010 rated it liked it
The original, 1944, edition of this book essentially brought the term "Social Darwinism" into the language; it had appeared in occasional journal papers, etc., ever since the basic philosophy had been put forward by UK philosopher Herbert Spencer in the years starting fractionally before the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), but Hofstadter's usage popularized it. Not surprisingly, his usage differs in meaning somewhat from our current one, since he's concerned with all the theori ...more
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sociology, “queen of the sciences”...
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Taylor Ranch, Idaho
Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
Thom Dunn

Reese has it shelved as reference; Book Pig as to-read.

Decent library h/c arrived 3/24/2011
Hawsar Kamal
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Richard Hofstadter was an American public intellectual, historian and DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University. In the course of his career, Hofstadter became the “iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus” whom twenty-first century scholars continue consulting, because his intellectually engaging books and essays continue to illuminate contemporary history.

His most

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