Nativism & Social Darwinism and Business in the 19th Century
Two philosophies that gained prominence in post-Civil War America were Social Darwinism and Nativism. These two played a crucial role in the rise of big business. Social Darwinism, which was based on Charles Darwin’s evolution theory, proposed that only the fittest businesses in the US would survive. The philosophy supported the view that unfit or weaker businesses would be destroyed by superior ones, and this situation would be better for society. Monopolistic actions undertaken by many wealthy American industrialists were justified by Social Darwinism, which stated that the most successful in society was also the hardest working and the smartest. Adoption of this philosophy justified the lack of government interference in business. Laissez-faire capitalism was adopted where corporations acted as they saw fit, and natural economics dictated the outcome. Without government involvement or support, the smaller and weaker companies were largely disadvantaged.
As such, the bigger corporations were able to eliminate or buy out the smaller companies leading to a rise of big business in the US. Nativism was the view that American-born inhabitants of the US were superior to the immigrants. This view rose into prominence in the post-Civil War era as large groups of immigrants came to the US. The nativist approach emphasized support for American-born whites and corporations owned by this group. The hostility towards foreigners led to increased support for the American big businesses that perpetuated the view that the American-born inhabitants were superior. Most nativists strongly believed in the superiority of Anglo-Americans, and the proof of this was in the successes of the American organizations. They, therefore, supported the growth of big business as it justified their views on American-born whites’ superiority.