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Darwin’s Influence – Beyond Biology

Much ink has been spilt over whether or not Darwin’s ideas had any influence upon other important historical figures and their own ideologies. For example, there is the link – disputed by some, obvious to others – between Darwin’s ideas and Hitler’s racial policies and the Nazi Eugenics program. I have my own opinion of the matter. Leaving this aside for the moment, let’s take a peek at a link between Darwin and Marx. In an 1861 letter to a friend, a certain Mr. Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx critiqued certain books he’d read recently and then made this comment on Darwin’s recent work.

“Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle. One does, of course, have to put up with the clumsy English style of argument. Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.”

You may find a record of the letter here:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/letters/61_01_16.htm

So what conclusions (if any) shall we draw from this comment? I’ll let you, dear reader, be the judge.

2 Comments to “Darwin’s Influence – Beyond Biology”

  1. Hmm. Marx didn’t pay attention very well, or at least, didn’t understand what natural selection was! Societal classes don’t fit at ALL.

  2. Krista, you may well be correct. It just shows that like youtube videos, ideas sometimes also go viral. Just like a virus in the wild, you never know who’ll pick an idea and run with it – whether or not it would have been agreeable to the original author or not. But I think that it is fair to say that Darwinism’s social implications were not just taken completely out of context, but in some respects a fair conclusion drawn from Darwin himself in his The Descent of Man.

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