Mr Hermans sets out … to discover the essence of social Darwinism. This results in an a-historic approach …. [Still] the investigation of Mr Hermans certainly is worth reading. For those who will not worry too much about the formulation of the historical problem to solve, this book offers a fine survey, nicely written, of the many variants of social Darwinism. It’s a valiant undertaking to add a fresh contribution to the so-called ‘Darwin industry’, even venturing to come up with something novel to it.
This book is ‘likely to effect an immense mental revolution’, the London publisher John Chapman prophesied in 1859 after Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species had appeared. Was he right? Yes, Cor Hermans states in his interesting thesis … Mr Hermans demonstrates in detail how thinkers like Galton (the father of eugenics), Spencer, Wallace, Haeckel and Schäffle – each in their own way – tried to shape this aspiration [to redefine sociology, social politics, and social philosophy in a darwinistic way], what emphasis they chose, and how they fitted it in with the national and socio-political context they were engaged in. But Mr Hermans does more. He shows that the efforts of the social Darwinists were not necessarily ‘faulty’, or, as has been suggested in historiography, only a vulgarisation or misleading popularisation of Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself wished for his universal theory to penetrate the humanities.