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

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Banquet at Delmonico's

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

by Barry Werth

Banquet at Delmonico's
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 400 pages
    Apr 2011, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman

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Beyond the Book:
Social Darwinism

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 ...

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