The Survival of the Fittest, the Survival of Both

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Speaking Tree Blog | October 11, 2021

Modern industry was a boon for mankind, but at the same time its existence created a bad and unfair situation. Those who were able to invest more money in industry emerged as masters of the market, while moneyless people were seen as a deprived group. This situation in the economy created a new saying, that is, compete or perish.

An English thinker, Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), justified this development by a theory which he termed Social Darwinism. This theory, according to him, means, “Society is like a living organism. Just as biological organisms evolve through natural selection, society evolves and increases in complexity through the survival of the fittest, that is, the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.” Where Darwin had applied this concept to biological phenomena, Spencer applied it to socio-economic phenomena.

In science, Darwinism is still a controversial theory. At present I have nothing to say on this score. But I would like to say a few words about Social Darwinism. It is a fact that there is competition in socio-economic life. But this competition is not evil. It is good for every society. During the process of competition, one group may temporarily emerge as a privileged group, while other groups may in comparison seem to be underprivileged.

However, this state of affairs proves to be positive in terms of its result. According to natural law, sooner or later, the underprivileged group is bound to become infused with a new spirit, which will play a revolutionary role in enabling it to prevail over the negative aspects of its present situation. If the underprivileged group was earlier an uncreative group, it will now emerge under the pressure of circumstances as a creative group.

Keeping this in mind, one can safely say that ‘compete or perish’ is a wrong saying. In economy, victory and defeat come and go on an alternate basis.

Competition is not just the byword of capitalism. It is a phenomenon of nature, which inevitably fosters competition. Competition creates challenges, challenges act as incentives to increased effort, and this leads to reaching new heights of success. In this sense, a better maxim than ‘compete or perish’ is, ‘compete and grow’.

So, by following the law of nature we can say that the survival of both and not the survival of the fittest is the best formula.