Darwin’s Political Wackiness

In the updated 1844 edition of the Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin offers his view on political systems (as indeed many do about the acephalous societies of South America – Clastres, even Lévi-Strauss) but here, well, not even ‘of its time’ is an excuse for this foolery – cheap shots at indigenous Australians and Maori notwithstanding, the structured racist-species-ism is built in:

‘The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes, must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at afar higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, – who, although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise dU there is property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power. I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. … The Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian: he can,  however, boast of his boomerang, his spear and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting’ (Darwin 1844: 241)

Voyage of the Beagle

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