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Men Versus the State: Herbert Spencer and Late Victorian Individualism 1st Edition

1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0198202394
ISBN-10: 0198202393
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Editorial Reviews


"The best available exegesis of Spencer's systematic political philosophy....Taylor publicizes Spencer's political theory better than any recent source."--Victorian Studies

"Not only does the author make a contribution to the history of political thought; his work should be helpful to those trying to understand issues in the debate between liberals of the right and those on the left today."--The Southern Economic Journal

"His book is a valuable addition to the literature on late-Victorian political thought."--American Historical Review

About the Author

Currently Analyst, Banking Supervision Division, Bank of England; formerly Lecturer in Political Philosophy and Political Theory, Lincoln College, Oxford (1986-1989)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (April 2, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198202393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198202394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,503,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on March 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) is one of the most intriguing figures of late Victorian Britain. Not only did his "Synthetic Philosophy" have a substantial impact in Britain, but Spencer's influence was almost as substantial in America, where he is generally seen as one of the main progenitors of what we now refer to as "Social Darwinism." He is the central actor in Werth's "Banquet at Delmonico's" (also reviewed on Amazon) which is built around his visit to the U.S. in 1882 where he received great honors. Spencer wrote such huge amounts of material, and led such an unusual private life, that it is often tempting to write him off as a "crackpot." This would be a serious miscalculation, as this fine analysis of his thought (published in 1992) demonstrates.

The author, an Analyst at the Bank of England then and still I believe, has entitled his book "Men Versus the State" for a good reason--it summarizes much of Spencer's orientation. For Spencer and his fellow "Individualists," the government's role was to be kept to a very bare minimum, individual freedom of action was to be fostered and unhindered, and programs such as public education and public health initiatives were counterproductive because they allowed the less fit to survive, thereby retarding social progress, which was contrary to Spencer's modified Darwinian orientation. Most of Spencer's key ideas are covered in the book, his most prominent writings discussed, and his role in late Victorian political/social theory detailed. The seven chapters and epilogue take up 275 pages. I particularly found the chapter on "Individualist Theory of History" quite interesting since folks like Henry Sumner Maine and A.V. Dicey pop-up.
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