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The study of sociology. By Herbert Spencer. Paperback – December 20, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library (December 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1418188417
  • ISBN-13: 978-1418188412
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,923,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I read Spencer's The Study of Sociology thirty-eight years ago when I was a doctoral student. The things I recall best are Spencer's learned and skillful (even if hopelessly wrong-headed) use of organic analogies; his off-handed but adept use of structural functional analysis, far better than Parsons, whose influence was than very much on the wane; and, most of all, Spencer's extraordinarily elegant but simple writing style.

I remember thinking that Spencer's critics, who were legion and Parsons was conspicuous among them, were much too hard on the guy. Yes, he was a determinedly laissez-faire conservative, anathema in the '60's and '70's; his use of organic analogies was hopelessly quaint and misleading; and the notion that there was a set of "first principles" which governed the organization of everything had rightly come to be judged nonsensical. Still, even when Spencer was patently wrong, he seemed brilliant, someone who deserved better than relegation to the status of a thinker of interest only to antiquarians.

By the way, given the similar titles, it's easy to confuse The Study of Sociology with Spencer's The Principles of Sociology, a much longer book, loaded with ethnographic material. The Study of Sociology is the better book by far.
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