Course Content
Survival of the Fittest
Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer
Moral Actions – Spencer
Types of Cooperation – Herbert Spencer
Critique of Communism and Socialism
Society as a Thing – Spencer and Realism
Comparative-Historical Method
Value Free Sociology of Spencer
Criticism of Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
    About Lesson


    Early Life and Family

    On April 27, 1820, Herbert Spencer was born in Derby, England, to a middle-class family. William George Spencer, his father, was a headmaster. He and his entire family were passionate nonconformists who embraced individualism.


    Spencer was educated at home by his uncle and father rather than attending a traditional school. As a result, Spencer acquired an early curiosity for studying moths and butterflies and a talent for physics and mathematics. Herbert received much of his education from his uncle Thomas Spencer. The latter had the same worldview as his father and taught him Latin, mathematics, physics, free trade, and libertarian political theory.

    According to his publications, he attended a few small private schools, although only for brief durations. His mathematical instruction was the finest. He didn’t get a formal education in the natural sciences, literature, or history, yet he produced some of the best works on sociology, biology, and psychology.


    Spencer began working as an engineer in railroad engineering at an early age. After completing this task, he changed careers and turned into a journalist. Spencer started his career as an editor for the renowned English magazine The Economist. After a while, he left his job and started working as a writer.

    Spencer was allowed to leave his work and live out the remainder of his days as a research scholar since 1853, thanks to an inheritance.

    Mid-Victorian age

    Spencer lived in the Victorian era, which was far different from the disordered and violent social reality of Comte and Marx. Mid-Victorian England was as far away from the perils of revolution and violent upheavals as a contemporary civilization can be, while riots and revolutions damaged the environment in which Comte and Marx evolved to intellectual maturity.

    The middle of the Victorian era was a robust and impressive time. Popular radicalism was curbed by reformed capitalism, and most contemporaries believed England was now securely placed on a path that would lead to ever-increasing luxury and prosperity. This confidence was supported by Britain’s expanding material affluence, industrial output, and international commerce, which turned the country into a global manufacturing hub by this point. As a result, the average British person’s level of life was multiplying. These societal circumstances had a significant impact on Spencer.

    Life without marriage

    George Eliot, an English poet, and Spencer became close friends. However, Spencer never got married, and their relationship did not blossom into one.

    He also lived alone. He was persuaded to be married by Auguste Comte and other friends who believed that a compassionate spouse would help him with his problems, but he declined their counsel.

    Health condition

    He was an active and well-respected academic, but he also struggled with depression, an opium addiction, severe sleeplessness, and a vaguely characterized nerve condition.

    Later Life

    Spencer was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1902 but did not win it. He passed away in 1903 at the age of 83. He was cremated, and his ashes were buried in London’s Highgate Cemetery next to Karl Marx’s gravesite.

    Sociology Plus