Learning From Early Attempts to Generalize Darwinian Principles to Social Evolution
Evolutionary psychology places the human psyche in the context of evolution, and addresses the Darwinian processes involved, particularly at the level of genetic evolution. A logically separate and potentially complementary argument is to consider the application of Darwinian principles not only to genes but also to social entities and processes. This idea of extending Darwinian principles was suggested by Darwin himself. Attempts to do this appeared as early as the 1870s and proliferated until the early twentieth century. But such ideas remained dormant in the social sciences from the 1920s until after the Second World War. Some lessons can be learned from this earlier period, particularly concerning the problem of specifying the social units of selection or replication.