Blogs > Liberty and Power > Spencer versus the Empire

Jul 11, 2005 4:42 am

Spencer versus the Empire

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

A little over a century ago, Herbert Spencer published his last book of essays, a volume with the rather unexciting title Facts and Comments. (His previous book had been titled Various Fragments; clearly the man needed some marketing advice.) Topics of the essays ranged over Spencer’s usual broad range of interests, from business ethics, the psychology of music, and the criteria of literary style, to evolutionary biology, the existence of God, and the metaphysical basis of geometry.

Among the essays were four, unfortunately as timely today as in 1902, dealing with the evils of militarism. The first of these, Spencer’s acerbic"Patriotism," I posted online nearly two years ago; in fact it was the very first text to be included in the Molinari Online Library. I have now posted the remaining three:

  • "Imperialism and Slavery" examines the relation between foreign and domestic policy, arguing that militarism abroad must inevitably translate into loss of liberty at home.

  • "Re-barbarization" explores the reciprocal influence between militarist policy and the increasing brutalisation of popular culture.

  • Finally,"Regimentation" analyses the growth of governmental bureaucracy and corporatism as part of the militarist syndrome.
This is the first time, to my knowledge, that any of these essays has appeared online. While I plan in due course to post all of Facts and Comments (and indeed ultimately all of Spencer's work), I thought the relevance of these particular essays to present sociopolitical circumstances made it worth jumping the chapter queue to make them available.

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More Comments:

Sheldon Richman - 7/12/2005

You have performed nobly, my good sir!

Roderick T. Long - 7/11/2005


My long-range plan for the Molinari Online Library is to put all of Spencer's works online, including different editions; that would certainly include the revised Social Statics. My even more ambitious plan includes putting lots of other stuff online as well, and translating lots of 19th-century French liberals. Check the Molinari News Page for notices of what's been added.

Kenneth R Gregg - 7/11/2005

Thanks Rod,
I've always enjoyed the essays in "Facts and Comments" and "Various Comments" and thrilled to hear that you are intending to put them online. I do hope that you will have the "Social Statics, Revised Edition" online as well. I find that it is far better than some of his critics (including Henry George) take it for. Like much of his writings, it is far better than his critics interpret.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

David Timothy Beito - 7/11/2005

The standard line in history textbooks is that Social Darwinson was a major factor in the rise of imperialism. The same textbooks highlight Spencer and Sumner as exemplars of Social Darwinism but almost never mention that both were leading anti-imperialists. I point this apparent contradiction out to my students....but I doubt it makes an impression.