Evolution of Societies ( Types of societies )
According to Spencer, the comparative method should serve as the foundation for the social sciences. The empirical information on the types of social institutions in various cultures should serve as the foundation of sociological knowledge. These data must be analyzed from an evolutionary viewpoint to follow the trajectory of society’s development.
According to Spencer, to evaluate a society from an evolutionary viewpoint, one must first determine the society’s previous stage of development and then follow the steps it took to reach its current stage. A study of evolution that considers the passing through distinct states must be grounded on evidence. In this instance, Spencer ran into a methodological issue with acquiring accurate data about previous phases of social development. The issue arises because, unlike creatures, society does not leave any fossils behind. Spencer attempted to overcome this issue by assuming that the primitive cultures of Asia and Africa may be seen as contemporary fossils. Therefore, ethnological information from these cultures may provide insight into earlier phases of developing sophisticated societies like those in Europe.
Spencer gathered a plethora of data on the makeup of social structures in Asia and Africa’s tribal and agricultural communities. But the information he collected was primarily secondhand information gleaned through communication with colonial officials and travelers who visited these civilizations. Unfortunately, Spencer never made the trip to any of these organizations to get first-hand knowledge. Nevertheless, in accordance with Spencer’s idea of social evolution, two classification systems for society were developed.
A. Degree of Composition
B. Construction of Types