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Malthus, Darwin, and Social Darwinism

  1. Peter J Bowler

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005882



How to Cite

Bowler, P. J. 2006. Malthus, Darwin, and Social Darwinism. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Queen's University, Belfast, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Darwin's theory of natural selection was inspired in part by T. R. Malthus's principle of population expansion. This was linked to the ideology of free-enterprise individualism, leading to claims that Darwin's theory reflected a similar ideology. Darwinism was certainly used to justify competitive social policies, but the relationship between science and ideology requires careful analysis.


  • darwinism;
  • ideology;
  • struggle for existence;
  • survival of the fittest