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Lesson 3 Herbert Spencer Robert Wonser SOC 368 – Classical Sociological Theory Spring 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Lesson 3 Herbert Spencer Robert Wonser SOC 368 – Classical Sociological Theory Spring 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lesson 3 Herbert Spencer Robert Wonser SOC 368 – Classical Sociological Theory Spring 2014

2 Spencer’s Life Born in Derby, England on April 27, 1820 Worked as a civil engineer for a railway from Worked as editor of The Economist 1850: Social Statics Began suffering insomnia and nervous breakdowns 2

3 Received inheritance in 1853 which allowed him to quit his job and live as a gentleman scholar. Never earned a university degree or held an academic position. Didn’t like to read the intellectual work of others. “All my life I have been a thinker and not a reader, being able to say with Hobbes that ‘if I had read as much as other men I would have known as little’” – Spencer Died December 8,

4 Spencer and Comte Both fans of positivism, though Comte went religious, Spencer was against this (focused on what was knowable). Both believed in societal evolution. Both derived structure and function from biology and tended to use them in similar ways. Both pivotal in development of structural functionalism. 4

5 Spencer and Comte Spencer defines social statics as dealing with the “equilibrium of a perfect society” Social dynamics as relating to “the forces of which society is advanced toward perfection” For Spencer the terms are normative, for Comte, descriptive. 5

6 Spencer was concerned with the knowable world and was more scientific than religious. Through deduction from general laws, Spencer articulates a series of ideas that constitute his general evolutionary theory. 6

7 Evolutionary Theory All inorganic, organic, and superorganic (societal) undergo evolution, devolution, or dissolution. His final evolutionary formula: “Evolution is an integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion; during which the matter passes from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity, to a definite, coherent, heterogeneity; and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.” (Spencer, 1902/1958:394) 7

8 Major elements of Spencer’s Evolutionary Theory 1) progressive change from a less coherent to a more coherent form; increasing integration 2) movement from homogeneity to heterogeneity; increasing differentiation 3) movement from disorder to order, demarcation of social structure and institutions; indefinite to the definite. Applies to both structures and functions. 8

9 Evolution Evolution occurs because homogeneous phenomena are inherently unstable. These effects of instability giving way to multiformity lead to heterogeneity which then leads to the multiplication of these effects. Segregation causes increasing multiplication of the effects and further differentiation. Leading to evolution. 9

10 Sociology “the study of sociology is the study of evolution in its most complex form.” (1873/1961:350) Macro level focus; societies, social structures, social institutions. Should be understood as we understand the natural world. Laypeople believer erroneously that they can understand society like sociologists. 10

11 Sociology and Biology Saw basic linkages between the two. All social actions are determined by the actions of individuals and that those actions conform to the basic laws of life in general. Powerful analogies between the two.  Living body, growth, structure and function. Natural progression and linkage between the two because humans are the “terminal” problem for biology and starting place for sociology. 11

12 Sociology and Psychology “psychological truths underlie sociological truths.” Psychology studies feelings which were linked to action. Primitive people were more selfish, modern more altruistic 12

13 Sociological Methods Difficulties facing Sociology: Social phenomena are not directly perceptible. Subjectivities distort data of past and present societies. Sociologists’ biases influence more than in natural sciences. “value-free” position Used comparative historical method 13

14 Evolution of Society Increasing integration (increasing size and coalescence of masses of people) Increasing heterogeneity Increasing definiteness (clearly demarcated social institutions) Increasing coherence of social groups (they stay together longer!) 14

15 Society Nominalism – society is nothing more than its component parts Realism – society is a distinct and separate entity (Spencer’s view) Organicism 15

16 Society Structure as an organization  accompanies increased size Regulative (military activities) and sustaining (economic activities that maintain the group) Function “the need subserved” by a structure 16

17 Simple and Compounded Societies Simple societies constitute single working entities that are not connected with other entities.  Homogenous, uncivilized and uncompounded. Compound increase in heterogeneity Doubly compound societies are recompounding compound groups Trebly-compound, the great nations of the world 17

18 Militant and Industrial Societies Militant societies tend to be dominated by the regulative system whereas industrial societies are characterized more highly developed sustaining systems. Militant – offensive and defensive warfare Army and nation are one Individual exists for the good of collectivity War is useful for societal aggregation. 18

19 Industrial Societies Industrial societies dominated by sustaining system and its industrial system is more developed and diverse Governments tend to be democratic Individual is protected and permitted to flourish Military is subordinated to industrial system. Harmony, not conflict characterize industrial societies 19

20 Ethics and Politics Spencer’s moral and political ideas are derived from his methodological individualism. Focused on macro but individuals were his “units” “The properties of the units determine the properties of the aggregate” (Spencer, 1873/1961:41) Individuals are endowed with a moral sense that dictates their actions and the structure and functioning of society. 20

21 “Society is constantly excreting its unhealthy, imbecile slow, vacillating, faithless members” The unfit should die off. To help them, they’ll only breed and make society worse off. Only role fo state is protect the individual’s liberty. “survival of the fittest” 21

22 22 Herbert Spencer’s Legacy Who Now reads Spencer?


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