Darwin was the person who presented the theory of biological evolution and claimed that all the living beings struggle for their survival and only those among them survive that are the fittest. Thus, he gave the theory of ‘struggle for survival and survival of the fittest’. However, his theory was totally biological and did not claim the same in social life. Herbert Spencer was the person who basically gave the theory of social evolution and claimed that in the social life the same applies – there is struggle for survival and only those survive who are the fittest.
Though not completely correct, the theory of evolution in the social life does have certain significance. If studied carefully, the different societies and nations that are there in the world are facing a changing environment – the social circumstances change with each passing day and they have to struggle to fulfill overgrowing necessities introduced by these changes and the ones that are able to overcome the challenges are considered the fittest and are the ones that survive.
In today’s human societies the theory of struggle for survival may fit both individual and collective struggle for survival. The competitions ensued by socio-economic setup that we have in human societies compel the individuals to struggle for achieving their goals. The ones that are able to stand victorious in this competition are basically the fittest and stand distinct from others. However, it should be noted that here the survival does not necessarily mean living alive but it can, in this context, mean being able to defeat others in the competition.
At the same time, there are differences in the way the animals and the human beings compete each other for survival. Human beings have societies that have their rules and regulations and social norms and values. Moreover, there are ethical standards and religious obligations that human beings have to consider as well. Therefore, they are not supposed to do anything they like in their struggle for survival. In the biological evolution, however, the animals’ only motive is to be able to survive by any means possible. They know no ethics and do not understand social norms and values.
It is also important to understand that struggle for survival in the biological context does not always mean that each animal has to fight its own war for survival but they also have the capacity to carryout collective endeavors in this regard. Peter Alekseyevich Kropotkin in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution explains this clearly, “In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense—not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay.”
Human beings in today’s world must also opt for collective endeavors to ensure their survival on the planet earth. Unfortunately, the negative competition among the individuals have isolated them to a large extent. Everyone, nowadays, is lost in his own world and does not easily associate with others. This has led to societies that have more discontentment and hatred. Learning from the animals, human beings can strengthen their mutual cooperation in their fight for their survival.
At the same time the misinterpretation of the term ‘fittest’ in the theory has also led human beings to consider that the nations and the individuals that are the most powerful, have wealth and social status and are the fittest; therefore, they alone can stay victorious in the struggle for survival. Nonetheless, that is not always the case. The fittest does not necessarily imply that human beings must be physically powerful or have wealth and social status. Though, wealth and power play dominant role in supporting the individuals and the nations in their survival but another factor that is even more important than that is the capacity to adjust with the changing society. Leon C. Megginson has rightly said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
The individuals and societies that understand the flow of change and change themselves, their perceptions in accordance to the demands of the time will definitely be successful. History has been witness to this fact. The western societies in today’s world are the most developed nations of the world and more equipped to guarantee their survival just because they were flexible enough to change with the changing nature of their surroundings. They did not cling to the their obsolete ideas and beliefs, progressed in science and technology and at the same time welcomed changes in the social and political lives, embraced democracy and freedom and became the fittest. The eastern societies on the other hand, could not cope with the changes. Denied to make necessary adjustments in their set of beliefs and ideas and as a result are lagging behind others and are struggling to survive.