Opinions sociales (French Edition)


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But before he wrote, it was used only on rare occasions; he made it a standard shorthand for a complex of late-nineteenth-century ideas, a familiar part of the lexicon of social thought. Social Darwinism has many definitions, and some of them are incompatible with each other. As such, social Darwinism has been criticized for being an inconsistent philosophy, which does not lead to any clear political conclusions. Part of the difficulty in establishing sensible and consistent usage is that commitment to the biology of natural selection and to 'survival of the fittest' entailed nothing uniform either for sociological method or for political doctrine.

A 'social Darwinist' could just as well be a defender of laissez-faire as a defender of state socialism, just as much an imperialist as a domestic eugenist. The term "Social Darwinism" has rarely been used by advocates of the supposed ideologies or ideas; instead it has almost always been used pejoratively by its opponents. The process includes competition between individuals for limited resources, popularly but inaccurately described by the phrase " survival of the fittest ", a term coined by sociologist Herbert Spencer.

Creationists have often maintained that Social Darwinism—leading to policies designed to reward the most competitive—is a logical consequence of "Darwinism" the theory of natural selection in biology. While the term has been applied to the claim that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection can be used to understand the social endurance of a nation or country, Social Darwinism commonly refers to ideas that predate Darwin's publication of On the Origin of Species. Others whose ideas are given the label include the 18th century clergyman Thomas Malthus , and Darwin's cousin Francis Galton who founded eugenics towards the end of the 19th century.

The expansion of the British Empire fitted in with the broader notion of social Darwinism used from the s onwards to account for the remarkable and universal phenomenon of "the Anglo-Saxon overflowing his boundaries", as phrased by the late-Victorian sociologist Benjamin Kidd in Social Evolution , published in Herbert Spencer's ideas, like those of evolutionary progressivism, stemmed from his reading of Thomas Malthus, and his later theories were influenced by those of Darwin.

However, Spencer's major work, Progress: Its Law and Cause , was released two years before the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species , and First Principles was printed in In The Social Organism , Spencer compares society to a living organism and argues that, just as biological organisms evolve through natural selection, society evolves and increases in complexity through analogous processes.

In many ways, Spencer's theory of cosmic evolution has much more in common with the works of Lamarck and Auguste Comte 's positivism than with Darwin's. Jeff Riggenbach argues that Spencer's view was that culture and education made a sort of Lamarckism possible [14] and notes that Herbert Spencer was a proponent of private charity. Spencer's work also served to renew interest in the work of Malthus.

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While Malthus's work does not itself qualify as social Darwinism, his work An Essay on the Principle of Population , was incredibly popular and widely read by social Darwinists. In that book, for example, the author argued that as an increasing population would normally outgrow its food supply, this would result in the starvation of the weakest and a Malthusian catastrophe. Malthus himself anticipated the social Darwinists in suggesting that charity could exacerbate social problems. Another of these social interpretations of Darwin's biological views, later known as eugenics, was put forth by Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, in and Galton argued that just as physical traits were clearly inherited among generations of people, the same could be said for mental qualities genius and talent.

Galton argued that social morals needed to change so that heredity was a conscious decision in order to avoid both the over-breeding by less fit members of society and the under-breeding of the more fit ones. In Galton's view, social institutions such as welfare and insane asylums were allowing inferior humans to survive and reproduce at levels faster than the more "superior" humans in respectable society, and if corrections were not soon taken, society would be awash with "inferiors".

Social Darwinism

Darwin read his cousin's work with interest, and devoted sections of Descent of Man to discussion of Galton's theories. Neither Galton nor Darwin, though, advocated any eugenic policies restricting reproduction, due to their Whiggish distrust of government. Friedrich Nietzsche 's philosophy addressed the question of artificial selection, yet Nietzsche's principles did not concur with Darwinian theories of natural selection.

Nietzsche's point of view on sickness and health, in particular, opposed him to the concept of biological adaptation as forged by Spencer's "fitness". Nietzsche criticized Haeckel, Spencer, and Darwin, sometimes under the same banner by maintaining that in specific cases, sickness was necessary and even helpful.

Wherever progress is to ensue, deviating natures are of greatest importance. Every progress of the whole must be preceded by a partial weakening. The strongest natures retain the type, the weaker ones help to advance it. Something similar also happens in the individual. There is rarely a degeneration, a truncation, or even a vice or any physical or moral loss without an advantage somewhere else. In a warlike and restless clan, for example, the sicklier man may have occasion to be alone, and may therefore become quieter and wiser; the one-eyed man will have one eye the stronger; the blind man will see deeper inwardly, and certainly hear better.

To this extent, the famous theory of the survival of the fittest does not seem to me to be the only viewpoint from which to explain the progress of strengthening of a man or of a race. Ernst Haeckel 's recapitulation theory was not Darwinism, but rather attempted to combine the ideas of Goethe , Lamarck and Darwin. It was adopted by emerging social sciences to support the concept that non-European societies were "primitive" in an early stage of development towards the European ideal, but since then it has been heavily refuted on many fronts [24] Haeckel's works led to the formation of the Monist League in with many prominent citizens among its members, including the Nobel Prize winner Wilhelm Ostwald.


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The simpler aspects of social Darwinism followed the earlier Malthusian ideas that humans, especially males, require competition in their lives in order to survive in the future. Further, the poor should have to provide for themselves and not be given any aid. However, amidst this climate, most social Darwinists of the early twentieth century actually supported better working conditions and salaries.

Alan Sokal

Such measures would grant the poor a better chance to provide for themselves yet still distinguish those who are capable of succeeding from those who are poor out of laziness, weakness, or inferiority. Bourdieu asserts in this respect that 'working-class people expect objects to fulfil a function' whilst those free from economic necessities are able to operate a pure gaze separated from everyday life. The aesthetic choices of a person create class fractions class-based social groups and actively distance a social class from other social classes of a society. Hence, predispositions to certain kinds of food, music and art are taught and instilled in children and these class-specific not particular nor individual tastes help guide children to their "appropriate" social positions.

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Therefore, self-selection into a class fraction is achieved by impelling the child's internalization of preferences for objects and behaviors suitable for him or her as member of a given social class and also, the development of an aversion towards the preferred objects and behaviors of other social classes. Therefore, " Taste " is an important example of cultural hegemony , of how class fractions are determined. It's not only the possession of social capital and economic capital, but possession of cultural capital as well.

Instilling and acquiring cultural capital is used as an insidious mechanism to ensure social reproduction as well as cultural reproduction of the ruling class. Moreover, because persons are taught his and her tastes at an early age, taste is deeply internalized. Social re-conditioning for taste is very difficult.

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The taste instilled and acquired tends to permanently identify a person as one from a certain social class and this impedes social mobility. In this way, the cultural tastes of the dominant ruling class tend to dominate the tastes of the other social classes, forcing individual men and women of economically and culturally dominated classes to conform to the dominating aesthetic preferences, or risk "societal" but in fact, fractional and domineering disapproval —appearing crude, vulgar and tasteless. Sarkozy, the incumbent president, is banking on Facebook, the most popular social network in France, where he launched a timeline to show he has been immersed in politics since he was a student.

This digital storytelling shows he did not ascend to the state's highest office by chance. Meanwhile, frontrunner Hollande has the most popular political Twitter account in France , followers at the time of writing as opposed to Sarkozy's , What is new is the launch of funny websites to tackle the opposition. One satirical video, " kikadiquoi " who said what? In response, the PS Hollande's party launched Le Sarkolol , replicating the Memory card game whereby every card turned is a reminder of Sarkozy's alleged involvement in various scandals.

Alan Sokal's writings on science, philosophy and culture

The candidates and their respective campaign honchos are jostling for online exposure to 1. In the digital era every politician can broadcast a message through social media without newsrooms' filters.

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It is a paradigm shift in the relationship between the political world, the media and the citizen," he added. A paradigm shift perhaps, but one that is still under way. French candidates rally support online France's unhappy electorate

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