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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Social Organism: A Brilliant Account of Societal Comparison or Purely a Disguised Agenda?

Herbert Spencer associates an organism, which forms a continuous mass, to the formation and separation of society which has dispersed itself over the surface of the earth. While I believe the comparison seems to be purely organic, I can’t help but oppose the underlying agenda of Spencer.

Spencer’s explanation of society as a morphing organism experiencing its own evolution is stymied by the notion that man’s capacity for cerebral thought assigns them a position in complex society. Morgan and Tylor believed in the fundamental similarity of human thought around the world termed the “psychic unity of man”. Subsequently, Spencer, clearly by my understanding, inserts his classifications of mental capability throughout the book albeit perhaps unintended.

Human beings are all wired in the same manner. Cells react to certain stimuli just as the wires in our brain allow for us to watch and learn. There is no computer technician adding extra nerve bundles to create more rapid fire synapses to the upper classes. Does this relate to Spencer’s notion of mental thought? Yes. Spencer goes on to say that “classes engaged in agriculture and laborious occupation in general, are far less susceptible, intellectually and emotionally, than the rest; and especially less so than the classes of higher mental culture”. I disagree with this statement unreservedly. This is like saying any profession which involves physical aptitude is completely excluded from the likes of high society or mental reasoning. Would this imply that people in professions such as anthropology or archaeology are just trained blue collar construction workers with no intellect? Yes, it seems to me, that is exactly what Spencer is alluding to.

Spencer was brought up amongst the “rising middle class”. He never attended a prestigious institution for higher learning and was considered an intellectual outsider. Do I think this upbringing afforded Spencer some sort of agenda into the idea of society as a living organism? This statement merely suggests Spencer’s ethnocentric views on higher society, and I seem to think, that this idea was brought forth because Spencer’s idea of society was “self-taught”. He firmly believed that society could exist without the intrusion of government or the higher powers so to speak. This may be some consensus to this idea, as we all are familiar with one man who was notoriously recognizable because of his socialist views of government and their interference. In essence, Marx and Spencer both agreed that society’s separation of the mentally capable bourgeois was built upon the backs of the less intellectually proficient lower class.

I firmly believe that Spencer did have an agenda with the Social Organism as he fails to confront the fact that societies don’t have a tissue or membrane that can be identified by scientific means. You can’t place a society under a microscope, albeit some individuals might use hypothetical means. You are capable, however, of doing so with organisms.


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