The Echoes of the Mind (119-4) Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer

Society exists for the benefit of its members, not the members for the benefit of society. ~ Herbert Spencer

English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) took a Darwinist view of society. Though agreeing with Marx about class struggles propelling human societies, Spencer was antithetical to Marx about the resultant inequities needing amelioration. To Spencer, social Darwinism justified the ruling class as having won their position via social “survival of the fittest.” Government had no moral right to step in.

Government is essentially immoral. ~ Herbert Spencer

Compassion was not Spencer’s long suit. He was adamantly against social welfare, fearing that it would interfere with weeding out the biologically inferior. Preserving the unfit would only weaken the “great white race.” Spencer promoted sociology for sociopaths.

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. ~ Herbert Spencer

Stripped of predispositions, the evolutionary perspective – now called sociocultural evolutionism – is a common approach to understanding social dynamics. Taking a page from Enlightenment optimism, cultural evolution presupposes that social systems have progressed historically, which is a bold fiction without basis in fact.

Spencer’s social Darwinism as a way of explaining and justifying human inequality is still popular, despite the absence of evidence to support it. ~ American sociologist Betty Yorburg