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HERBERT SPENCER THE LIFE Herbert Spencer was a British social thinker of 19th century and is also called

the Second Founding Father of Sociology. He developed Sociology as an all encompassing science. He was an engineer, an editor, a philosopher and a sociologist. He was born on April 07, 1820 in Derby in England in a middle class family. His father George Spencer had nine children and Herbert Spencer was the oldest and the only survivor. Due to his ill health he could not get conventional school education. However, he got some education from his father. His family was highly individualistic in nature and so he was. At the age of 13 he went to his uncles place where he got further education. His family training was scientific in nature and he decided to pursue his career in science. In 1837 he joined the London and Burmingham Railways as an engineer but soon left the job and returned home at Derby where he took to journalism and became editor of the Economist and stayed there for five years during which he published his first book entitled Social Statics in 1851. Radicals of the time admired this work. In 1853 he resigned from the job became independent scholar throughout his life without a regular job and institutional attachment as he was well off on economic front because he inherited sizeable money from his uncle. He also remained bachelor with strict discipline. He finally devoted himself to writing only and during the time of Social Statics he suffered from insomnia and in later phase of his life he kept on suffering from nervous breakdowns and physical illnesses. He never earned a university degree or held an academic position but his creativity increased despite his physical and mental illnesses and his

isolation. In 1855 he published Principles of Psychology which was not a great success. In later phase he published First Principles, Principles of Biology, Principles of Ethics, Principles of Sociology and The Study of Sociology etc. and earned international reputation for his scholarly writings. Like his predecessor, Auguste Comte, he did not read others in order to preserve the purity of his thoughts. His last years spent in complete isolation and died on December 8, 1903 at the age of 83.

SPENCERS THEORY OF EVOLUTION Introduction: The Law of Evolution is the most outstanding contribution of Herbert Spencer. Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species founded the idea of Evolution in 19th century in 1859. The idea of Evolution greatly influenced Spencer and he applied it in the social field and called it Social Evolution. Accordingly Social Evolution refers to a set of stages through which all the societies moved from simple to complex and from homogeneity to heterogeneous. The concept of Evolution has been borrowed from Biology to Sociology and the concept of Organic Evolution has been replaced by Social Evolution in Sociology. Social Evolution refers to evolution of human societies and implies evolution of mans social relations. It had been

hoped that theory of Social Evolution would explain the origin and development of man. Sociologists and Anthropologists wanted to find out explanation of how our society evolved. They wanted an explanation rather than description. Spencers idea of Evolution is divided into two parts: 1. General Theory of Evolution (in the book First Principle) 2. Theory of Social Evolution (in the book Study of Sociology & Principle of Sociology) GENERAL THEORY OF EVOLUTION: Spencer had taken evolutionary perspective from Charles Darwins Theory of Organic Evolution. His theory of social evolution is found in his General Theory of Evolution. According to Spencer, evolution is universal principle and is applicable to both physical and social worlds. It is supreme law of all becomings. He maintains that evolution is a change from a state of relatively indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to definite, coherent heterogeneity. This law of evolution was universal in nature because it was applicable to physical, organic and the social worlds. Within the framework of universal evolution Spencer developed three basic laws and four secondary propositions each building upon each and all upon the doctrine of evolution. Three Basic Laws: a) Law of Persistence of Energy or Force: In the world force or energy persists. Energy remains sustained and causes all phenomena. But this force or energy is beyond our knowledge. This we cannot explain but we have to accept it as such.

b) Law of Indestructibility of Matter: Matter and energy in the world are neither created nor destroyed but conserved. c) Law of Continuity of Motion: There is continuous motion in the world. All things continue in motion. Like matter or energy, motion also cannot be destroyed or stopped. When form of matter changes, motion also changes. Only the form of energy changes, it never disappears or extinguished, it always persists. Secondary Propositions: a) Uniformity of Law: There persists certain relationship among the forces in the nature. The world is an order of elements. Recurring events in natural worlds, the forces, the elements of matter and relations of motion existing among them have a definite regularity. b) Law of Transformation and Equivalence of Force: The force, the elements of matter, the motion are never lost totally in a process of change. They are only transformed into other forms of existence. c) The Law of Least Resistance & Great Attraction: There is a tendency in everything (all forces and elements) to move along line of least resistance and of great attraction. d) The Principle of Alteration or Rhythm of Motion: All phenomena in nature have their own particular rate and rhythm of movement, of duration and development. Force, matter and motion have its appropriate pattern of transformation.

THEORY OF SOCIAL EVOLUTION The theory of social evolution analyses the genesis, development, evolution and finally decay of the society in the same ways in which the

theory of organic evolution analyses the birth, development, evolution and finally death of the organism. Spencer applied evolutionary principle to the human society because he considered human society as an organism. Both the organism and the society grow from simple to complex and from homogeneous to heterogeneous. His theory incorporates two interrelated assumptions listed as under: a) Change from simple to complex or movement from simple society to different levels of compound society. b) Change from military society to industrial society. The first assumption refers to that all phenomena in all fields proceed from simplicity to complexity. Societies also undergo evolutionary stages of development. Spencer identified four types of societies based on their level of development, namely, Simple Compound. Doubly compound. Trebly compound.

Simple society refers to most primitive society without complexities and consists of few families. Compound society consists of a large number of families which form a clan. A doubly compound society is made up of several clans making it a tribe or tribal society. A trebly compound society refers to organization of several tribes into nation states. This is found in contemporary times. The second assumption refers to movement from military to industrial society. Spencer maintains that evolution proceeds from military society to industrial society. The type of social structure depends on the

relations of society to other societies. Hence military society is characterized by compulsory cooperation, centralized authority, economic autonomy and dominance of state over individuals whereas industrial society refers to voluntary cooperation, decentralized authority, economic dependence and role of state is limited CONCLUSION: Spencers theory of evolution has been drawn from his seven basic propositions. He held that evolution is an integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion during which the matter passes from relatively indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a relatively definite, coherent heterogeneity. Accordingly all phenomena in the nature such as stars, terrestrial bodies, biological organisms and the development of species, all psychological and sociological processes of human experiences and behavior followed this pattern of change (simple to complex, homogeneous to heterogeneous). All process of change are similar. Thus Spencer made evolution a universally applicable system of analysis which could analyze the development and evolution of human society.

TYPES OF SOCIETY Herbert Spencer classified societies on two bases, namely, degree of composition and construction of models. On the basis of degree of composition the society has been classified into following categories, namely, a) Simple b) Compound c) Doubly compound. d) Trebly compound.

Based on the construction of models, Spencer classified society into military and industrial society. These models were of extreme types wherein the former type was characterized by a dominant regulating system whereas the latter was characterized by sustaining system. Accordingly in the military society, military has a dominant role. This has features listed as under: a) Offensive and Defensive Military Action: In military society offensive and defensive military action is predominant over other actions. Here the entire society taken as a sleeping military. Entire social organization military in nature. b) Centralized Authority: In military society military head is also a political head and has a despotic control over the entire nation. There exists a clear, precise and rigid hierarchy of power throughout the society to suit the absolute power of the ruler. All are slaves to those above in hierarchy. c) Rigid Social Classes: Fixed hierarchy of power structure involves a rigid grading of social statuses in the society. It means social classes are rigid on economic terms. Distribution of property and material rewards are according to the order of social ranks. d) Hierarchy in Belief System: Authoritarian and rigid hierarchy in society is corresponding to the prevailing ideas and beliefs. The existing belief system represent a supernatural authority having control over everything. Gods are also arranged in terms of hierarchy of power. Religion has also a hierarchy and the religious head is also despotic authority. In such society at times the despotic head is at the same time a political and military head and a religious head. His powers are justified from religion. Such a society is generally in conflict with other societies.

e) Strict Discipline: In military society life is rigorously disciplined. Distinction between public and private life is minimal. State has control over every aspects of life of citizens and can invade privacy of citizens any time. Individual rights virtually does not exist. Loyalty of individual is demanded by the state unquestionably. f) Compulsory Cooperation: Human relations is guided by compulsory cooperation. In sum we can say that Spencerian description of military type of society not only describes the ancient despotic societies but also modern totalitarian societies. As concept it has a wider use for a comparative studies of societies of both past and present.

The Industrial Society: Conceptually it refers to a society where industrialization and modernization has taken place. Saint Simon talked of industrial society referring to emerging central role of manufacturing industries in 18th century Europe in comparison to the previous agrarian society. Spencer maintains that in industrial society too military action takes place but at the periphery. Much of the social life is peaceful. Society is welfarist in nature. Features of industrial society are opposite to those of military society listed as under: a) Existence of personal rights: In industrial society personal rights of the individuals are recognized. Citizens also maintain a close watch over its maintenance and hence a strong representative form of government exists. There exists a dispute resolution mechanism accepted by the citizens.

b) Existence of sustaining system : In industrial society sustaining system has a greater degree of freedom from the regulatory authorities. The economic system is more in the hands of common man and citizens are encouraged to do take control of major economic activities. c) Growth of Association and Institutions: Economic enterprises of different types are given protection by the state and a healthy and peaceful atmosphere in the society helps the growth of free association and institutions with autonomy of functionality. d) Relatively Open Class Structure: Above mentioned factors is corresponded with a less rigid class structure where a human relationship is more of a contractual nature and free. e) Diminishing religious hierarchy: Religion is of individual nature. It loses its central authority status. Religious practices become more and more secular nature. f) Welfare State: In industrial society state takes a welfarist attitude towards its citizens. All forms of government is meant for the well being of its members. g) Awareness of Duty: In industrial society citizens are well aware of rights and duties of the government. They have institutional mechanisms to resist the irresponsible government. h) Contractual Relationship: Human relationship is sharply different from that of in military society. Free, contractual and responsible relationship between individuals call for voluntary cooperation in sharp contrast to compulsory cooperation of military society.

Distinctive characteristics of Military and Industrial Societies Characteristics Military Society Industrial Society

Dominant Functions activity


Principle of Social Coordination

Relations between state and individual Relations between state and other organizations Structure of State Structure of social stratification

Corporate defensive and offensive activity for preservation and aggrandizement. Compulsory cooperation, regimentation by enforcement of orders, both positive and negative regulation of activity. Individuals exist for the benefit of state; restraints on liberty, property and mobility All organizations public, private organizations excluded Centralized

Peaceful, mutual rendering of individual services

Voluntary cooperation, regulation by contract and principles of justice, only negative regulation of activity State exists for benefit of individuals, freedom, few restraints on property and mobility Private organizations encouraged


Fixity of rank, Plasticity and openness of occupation and locality, rank, occupation and inheritance of positions locality, movement between positions Type of Economic autonomy and Loss of economic economic self-sufficiency, little autonomy, activity external trade, interdependence via protectionism trade peaceful trade, free trade Valued social Patriotism, courage, Independence, respect for and personal reverence, loyalty, others, resistance to characteristics obedience, faith in coercion, individual authority, discipline. initiative, truthfulness, kindness.

SOCIAL DARWINISM Social Darwinism refers to a theoretical explanation of human social life in general and social inequality in particular. Its an adaptation of Charles Darwins theory of evolution. According to N.S. Timacheff social Darwinism refers to any doctrine which makes use or misuse of Charles Darwins theory of Biological Evolution to explain the existing forms of human social organization. Social Darwinism of Spencer involves two fundamental assumptions, namely, a) Principle of survival of the fittest: According to Spencer, nature has a tendency to get rid of the unfit for the better. Hence the weak should be eliminated for the sake of the strong. Elimination of the unfit from the society through natural selection would benefit the race biologically. Therefore, the State should not assist the poor whom he considered as unfit. According to Spencer less fit refers to less healthy and less intelligent. Spencer maintained that stupid people, people with vices and idleness, sick and deformed people etc. belong to the category of less fit. He held that due to the law of evolution only the more fit persons will survive and the less fit will decline on their own. He was only against the governmental assistance to the less fit. However, he didnt oppose the individual philanthropy. As Spencer was individualistic, he held that the economic system works best if individuals are allowed to seek their private interests. Therefore the state should not interfere in the economy. b) Principle of non-interference: Spencer strongly advocated individualism and laissez-faire politics. He was against almost all forms of state interference with private property. Accordingly state

had no business in education, health and sanitation, postal services, money & banking, regulating housing conditions or eliminating poverty etc. He maintained that the State was like a joint stock company whose primary business was protection of the rights of individuals and defending interests of its citizens against external aggression. Criticism: This theory was very popular in second half of the 19 th century and was used to justify the political and economic dominance of Whites over the Blacks with its racial overtones in having belief that some races are innately superior and hence are bound to dominate the others. This theory supported the policies of imperialist powers in the world. Moreover, the expression survival of the fittest supports the status quo, inactivity and idleness. Also this theory does not explain the larger population in countries like India and China taking birth in poor families and the principle of survival of fittest does not apply to these societies. This theory is basically problematic with little credibility in contemporary times.