The American Spencerians: Theorizing a New Science

Daniel Breslau

in Sociology in America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780226090948
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226090962 | DOI:
The American Spencerians: Theorizing a New Science

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This chapter examines the social sources of Spencerian sociology and the practices of research and discipline-building that it contains. Spencerianism here means the founders' adoption of Herbert Spencer's definition of society, and their adoption of his definition of sociology as the science that takes society as its object. Spencer's society is an integrated whole that is naturally occurring, continuous with the natural world, and subject to transhistorical laws of evolution. Sociology is therefore, by this definition, a holistic, naturalistic, and evolutionary science of society. Notwithstanding their disagreements, some quite radical, on theoretical particulars, the founders unanimously accepted this constitution for their discipline, just as sociologists today, with perhaps slightly less unanimity, would reject it.

Keywords: Spencerian sociology; Spencerianism; Herbert Spencer; society; sociology

Chapter.  9924 words. 

Subjects: Comparative and Historical Sociology

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