The Philosophical Seeds of our Destruction

One thing I find fascinating about this discussion of economics (as someone who has never studied this subject before) is the adoption of what is commonly called “Darwinism” or the survival of the fittest as synonymous with progress and capitalism. The use of a theory developed to describe a scientifically observable phenomenon to describe social and economic activity is really quite bizarre. Even more so, when it is obvious to me that the survival of the fittest in no way describes how healthy societies operate.

Looking at the evolution of ideas and philosophy has helped me understand the context of this a little more. The beginning of the Enlightenment, with it’s emphasis on rational thought and secularisation; the beginnings of modern democracy; development of a philosophy of liberalism – John Stuart Mill’s free markets and movement of people; the explosion of new technologies in the industrial revolution; the rise of a new and wealthy merchant class; all of these elements must have led to an amazing sense of wonder at the possibilities of the future (though some did view it as possibly distopian). The Darwinist approach to society allowed those who increased their wealth to justify their essentially “anti philanthropic political agenda“, while holding out the hope to those aspiring to wealth that they could also achieve if they were only good enough. A self perpetuating myth that justified opportunism and greed.

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Posted in economic development
One comment on “The Philosophical Seeds of our Destruction
  1. jeremy says:

    Provocative! I agree to an extent, but is it also not Darwinian to form social bonds to thwart some external threat? This is what Richard Dawkins tells me at least. On the dystopia reference, there were quite a few making the argument around this time; e.g. John Ruskin, who is credited with coining the phrase illth, to be used as an antonym for wealth.

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