Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) believed that Victorian Britain was moving toward a society of total regimentation ("slavery"). This movement was part of a cosmic process of evolution and dissolution. While the long-run (but not ultimate) destination of society was a "higher" form of social organization based on voluntary and complex interpersonal relationships, the immediate tendency was retrograde-a movement away from the liberation of mankind from the bondage of previous eras. This Article explores (1) the reasons for the retrograde movement, (2) its "inevitability, " and (3) the role of ideas in the process. The general conclusion is that in an effort to explain the general movement of social institutions and practices, Spencer develops a mechanical and deterministic approach which undermines his ability to pass normative judgements on changes in society.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)