Social Darwinism: Background information when reading Banquet at Delmonico's

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Banquet at Delmonico's

Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America

by Barry Werth

Banquet at Delmonico's by Barry Werth X
Banquet at Delmonico's by Barry Werth
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2011, 400 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman
Buy This Book

About this Book

Social Darwinism

This article relates to Banquet at Delmonico's

Print Review

It may seem that the concept of globalization is a very new one, and that the growth of free trade and its accompanying controversy belong to our era alone. In fact, the 1860s saw an explosion of trade between nations, accompanied by a doctrine of free markets unbridled by government intervention. Unlike today, though, many of the free marketeers of this earlier era were willing to apply their logic outside the realm of economics, to human societies and to human beings themselves.

These are the Social Darwinists (sometimes called Social Positivists) whose thinking stood behind the great economic expansion, was challenged by a global recession, and ultimately fell out of favor in the United States when the princely accumulation of wealth and power by a generation of Robber Barons was recognized as jarringly undemocratic.

Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier ComteThe intellectual grandfather of the Social Darwinists was a Frenchman named August Comte, who argued that the progress of science would ultimately yield a perfect society. This faith in rational pursuits was transformed by the English philosopher Herbert Spencer into a belief that rationally sound laws could lead to the perfection of the human race, if only they were allowed to operate without interference.

Spencer and his many followers built on the older concept that humans in their natural state are locked in constant warfare with one another. To this they added the essentially Darwinian view that the struggle for survival will naturally result in the most fit emerging as the victors.

In practice, these arguments were used to justify unfettered accumulation of wealth by the few, racial superiority and imperial conquest.

Image: Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte (1798-1857)

This "beyond the book article" relates to Banquet at Delmonico's. It originally ran in January 2009 and has been updated for the April 2011 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Seine
    The Seine
    by Elaine Sciolino
    Of the 24 members who reviewed Elaine Sciolino's The Seine: The River that Made Paris for BookBrowse...
  • Book Jacket: Fireborne
    Fireborne
    by Rosaria Munda
    Inspired by classical political theory and the French Revolution, Rosaria Munda's YA debut Fireborne...
  • Book Jacket: Frankissstein
    Frankissstein
    by Jeanette Winterson
    Jeanette Winterson's futurist sci-fi/alternative history hybrid unfolds in two main timelines. In ...
  • Book Jacket: Unbreakable
    Unbreakable
    by Richard Askwith
    In this well-researched biography, journalist Richard Askwith takes readers on a journey into 1930s ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Ordinary Girls
    by Jaquira DĂ­az

    Reminiscent of Tara Westover's Educate and Roxane Gay's Hunger--a memoir that reads as electrically as a novel.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe

    An inspiring life story that speaks urgently to our troubled times.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Wild Game

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me (Memoir)

A Best of Fall Title from: People, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, NPR, BBC, and many more!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Bite T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.