By Igor Kon, H. Campbell Creighton
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Extra info for A History of Classical Sociology
Spencer and His Time The birth of sociology in England is linked with the name of Herbert Spencer (1820–1903). In the middle of the nineteenth century, when his scientific activity was beginning, British capitalism was at the zenith of its prosperity. England, having completed the industrial revolution before all other countries, had far outstripped them in level of economic development. In the eyes of mid-century world opinion, she was the symbol of prosperity and liberalism. In spite of acute class contradictions, the British middle classes were complacently proud of the progress made, and looked to the future with confidence.
Finally, the ideas of the English Utilitarians, in particular of Bentham, whose individualism Spencer intensified even more, had quite a clear influence on him. As an apostle of extreme bourgeois liberalism, he consistently followed the principle of laissez-faire all his life. 2 Freedom of individual actions, competition and survival of the fittest were all that were needed for the development of society. Consistently working up that idea, Spencer opposed not only laws to aid the poor but also any state inter- 44 ference in public affairs.
The one end is subjective. 7 45 Finally, Spencer posed the question of the relation of the individual and the social whole quite differently to Comte. 2. The Subject-matter of Sociology Spencer did not provide a developed, formal definition of sociology or of its relation to other social sciences. But in The Study of Sociology he paid much attention to demonstrating the possibility of its existence as a science. This possibility depended on the existence (1) of a universal law of ‗natural causality‘ which operated in society to the same extent as in nature, and (2) of a regular connection of the elements and structure of any phenomenon.
A History of Classical Sociology by Igor Kon, H. Campbell Creighton