Herbert Spencer: Beliefs and Theories

Herbert Spencer was a British sociologist, philosopher and an open-minded political theorist of the Victorian era. He was commonly referred to as the second founding father of sociology.He contributed greatly to a wide variety of subjects including ethics, sociology, philosophy, psychology and biology among others (Spencer, 2001).He considered himself to be more of a philosopher than a sociologist.He termed his main scheme as synthetic philosophy system.In this system, he relates the evolutionary theory which he had previously developed to the societal study, philosophy, and psychology, Spencer’s popularity declined with time as his views came to be considered outdated.However, there is a revival of interest in Spencer’s sociology (Spencer, 2001).Spencer’s work is now widely used and continuously read by most liberal minded thinkers on subjects involving the main rights of an individual and the functions of the government.Therefore, this article is going to discuss the beliefs of the theorist Herbert Spencer as a sociologist.

Herbert Spencer believed that scientific ideas, for example, the evolution theory could result in the lasting perfection of humanity.According to him, the main and final objective of societal evolution should be total delight and harmony.He based his evolutionary theory on three principles, integration, variation and assurance.He points out that for total happiness and harmony to be achieved, the social groups should be clear and mingle freely, and there should be fewer differentiations (Spencer, 2001).The societal evolution should also occur and phase out homogeneous organisms which are unstable and pave the way for heterogeneous forms which are more stable.According to him, mixing of the homogeneous and heterogeneous forms in the society results in social disorganization.Spencer relates total happiness and harmony in the society with the ability to adapt to the surrounding environment by each individual. He believed that the society as a whole and social institutions could function independently and without assistance or control from other external sources.The external forces may include the government, oppressive rules among others (Spencer, 2001).Human beings should be given as much freedom as possible and be less restricted so that they can be able to develop and to achieve ultimate happiness.He argues that people who are not governed by rules and have total freedom will carry out their tasks more committedly as compared to those who are being controlled by rules.

Moreover, he also believed in competition among individuals in the society; this he termed social Darwinism.It applies survival for the fittest in society.In Darwin’s theory in biology, the less fit organisms die while the fittest survive and pass their desirable traits to their offsprings.However, in Social Darwinism, Spencer advocates for competition between individuals who will improve or better the welfare of the rest of the society (Spencer, 2001).The competition encourages only those fit enough to survive and move to the top.Only the best are allowed to undertake tasks and occupy positions in the society.In the process, the society is improved, and each becomes better adapted.According to him, the society is an average of the individuals in it and can be developed.However, the human nature is compassionate and merciful thus they tend to help each other despite the fact that for this theory to work in a society we need to stop caring about others.

Herbert Spencer was referred to as the second founding father of sociology. His works contributed significantly on various subjects such as sociology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, and biology among others. Conversely, Herbert Spencer viewed himself as more of a philosopher than a sociologist (Spencer, 2001). As time went by, the popularity of Herbert Spenser started to decline as people began to see his views as outdated. However, the works of Spencer have started to be reconsidered as they are being used by people in many fields including the most liberal minded thinkers.



Spencer, H. (2001). The complete works of Herbert Spencer (1st ed.). Charlottesville, Va.: InteLex Corporation.

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