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The Review of Austrian Economics

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 115–130 | Cite as

The Coming Slavery: The Determinism of Herbert Spencer

  • Mario J. Rizzo
Article
  • 170 Downloads

Abstract

Herbert Spencer (1820–1930) believed that Victorian Britain was moving toward a society of total regimentation (“slavery”). This movement was part of a cosmic process of evolution and dissolution. While the long-run (but not ultimate) destination of society was a “higher” form of social organization based on voluntary and complex interpersonal relationships, the immediate tendency was retrograde—a movement away from the liberation of mankind from the bondage of previous eras. This Article explores (1) the reasons for the retrograde movement, (2) its “inevitability”, and (3) the role of ideas in the process. The general conclusion is that in an effort to explain the general movement of social institutions and practices, Spencer develops a mechanical and deterministic approach which undermines his ability to pass normative judgements on changes in society.

Keywords

Social Organization Public Finance Interpersonal Relationship Social Institution General Movement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario J. Rizzo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsNew York UniversityNY

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