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Social Darwinism is the extension of Darwin's evolutionary ideas to human society. Over the past two centuries it has been argued that the "fittest" in terms of physical and mental prowess are most likely to survive and reproduce. It has also been suggested that the increasingly complex structure of human society mirrors the increasing complexity of nature. This highly original text examines whether these extensions from nature to society are justified,and considers how dangerous they may be in implying the systematic neglect - or even destruction - of the least "fit". It asks what, in any case, is "fitness" as applied to human beings? It also questions whether human nature is constrained by modern society and whether people evolved as essentially competitive or collaborative. Written in a clear and accessible style, with text boxes to explain key ideas and little or no biological knowledge required of the reader, this book suggests a new way in which evolutionary thought and social theory can be combined. dickens argues that the difficulties and prejudices associated with the field can be avoided by combining historical materialism with aspects of contemporary biology to create a "social Darwinism" for the 21st century.
Peter Dickens' main interest for the past 30 years has been in relations between the social and natural sciences. He originally trained as an architect at the University of Cambridge, England. From 1973 to 1999 he was a teacher and researcher at the University of Sussex. He is now Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge. He is also Fellow and Director of Studies in Social and Political Sciences, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. His most recent books include Society and Nature (1992) and Reconstructing Nature (1996).