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

    Phases of evolution 

    Inorganic Evolution → Organic Evolution → Super-organic Evolution

    Spencer believed that the fundamental rule governing every being was the law of evolution. In First Principles (1862), Spencer described his theories on evolution. He claimed that evolution is the process by which matter transforms from an ambiguous, incoherent homogeneity to an evident, coherent heterogeneity, with a corresponding dissipation of motion. He thus contended, based on cosmic law, that the organic phase of evolution comes after the inorganic phase, which in turn comes after the emergence of the super-organic.

    While “matter” evolved at the inorganic stage, “life” developed at the organic level, and “society” emerged at the super-organic stage. He claimed that sociology was the study of super-organic phenomena or the development of super-organic phenomena. He referred to social life as super-organic. He referred to social life as super-organic.

    According to Spencer, societal structures have evolved from basic, homogenous ones to more complex, heterogeneous ones. Spencer argued that civilizations progress from basic, undifferentiated, and religiously dominant systems to complex, differentiated, industrially, and scientifically dominant systems. 

    He concluded that societies had a time of instability throughout the transition but were balanced at both extremes.

    Spencer shared Darwin’s belief that the weak and unfit may be eliminated by nature. The healthiest and most intelligent individuals are the fittest. He argues that since nature is more clever than humans, the government should cease meddling with its progress. For Spencer, all civilizations had reached their pinnacle during the Victorian laissez-faire.

    Spencer did agree; however, that evolution did not entail that there was a “latent tendency to improve, everywhere in operation” or that it was “inevitable in any individual culture, or even plausible.” Instead, specific physical and social circumstances led to societal transformation. 

    Evolution was a process of adaptation rather than a progression of unavoidable phases, and disintegration was just as probable as integration. In conclusion, as societies get more extensive and complex, specialization, differentiation, and a corresponding demand for integration of the components occur. Therefore, according to Spencer, a simple or less differentiated form turns into a more complex and differentiated form via the dual processes of differentiation and integration. He said that the necessity for integration is directly proportionally related to the degree of differentiation.

    Sociology Plus