In the 1870s, the English sociologist Herbert Spencer applied CharlesDarwin's theories of biological evolution to human behavior andinstitutions. Spencer used the idea of survival of the fittest in biologyand theorized human society had evolved the same way (Cooper 15). SocialDarwinism, as Spencer's theory is called, pits everyone against each otherto survive in the world where humans are soldiers in a war for survival. Ifa person is poor, it is their fault and no one should help that person riseabove the poverty status. If a person is rich, they are worthy of theposition based on their actions, even if morally wrong. So if one is poor,the person will be weeded out of society while the rich survive.
The Social Darwinism of the nineteenth century contains several facets suchas political, corporate, and individual forms of the theory. Although allthese facets are found in Cyberpunk literature the genre mainly depicts thelower class of America's culture fighting for survival.
Many may argue this drive to survive, this Social Darwinism, can be found ingenres other than Cyberpunk. In some ways that idea is true about SocialDarwinism. For instance, the movie The Godfather had the Mafia familiesfighting for control of the crime syndicate. Sure they were struggling forsurvival, but what sets Cyberpunk apart is that absolutely everyone isstruggling for survival. All the characters are looking for some sort ofangle to get them ahead.
Also, Cyberpunk's survival of the fittest is based mainly on the technologyof the times. Whoever has the faster interface or what corporation has thenewest developed cyber-eye enhancement will win the evolutionary race. In something like TheGodfather, the bigger Italian family will always win. With Cyberpunk, afourteen-year old kid with stolen software could dump a cool million into abank account. Not just the strong will survive, but the one with thestrongest technology will triumph. This is Cyberpunk.
For example, the story "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson illustrates the
This black plastic object is what gave Bobby and Jack the edge needed to
step up from lowlife hackers to rich men. Jack buys this strange object and
the two realize its potential for hackers. The black object is a Russian military software that
disassembles any program and therefore any security counter-measures. After
loading a fortune into a Swiss bank account the two are rich, and a local
Not all Cyberpunk stories follow the mainstream formula of the protagonist surviving the fight of the fittest. "Freezone" by John Shirley is one such
"Freezone" follows the story of an outdated rocker named Rickenharp as he
tries to keep "classic rock n' roll" alive. the problem stems from minimono, a new
technology in music that lets the user synthesize songs directly from the
brain. Of course, the old rocker believes in guitars and drums and refuses