The Principles of Sociology
Volumes 1, 2 & 3
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Herbert Spencer sought to unify all of the sciences and ethics under a common set of theoretical principles loosely derived from the physics of his time and outlined in First Principles (1862). The Principles of Sociology was a later work in Spencer's grand scheme, with the first installments appearing in 1874 and continuing until 1896. The re-issue of the complete volumes of this great work will stimulate renewed interest in Spencer's sociology, not just as an historical curiosity, but as a body of work that can still inform sociology. Indeed, at a time when it seems sociology has mined its classics for all the gold they contain, Spencer's work provides a "mother lode" of new treasures. Sociologists and others will be surprised at the profound insights they will find in The Principles of Sociology.This complete three volume set of The Principles is divided into eight "Parts." Part I sets up the approach for the rest of the volumes. Here, Spencer distinguishes the inorganic, organic, and superorganic realms of the universe, with the most important comparison being the differences between the organic and superorganic. The most well-known sections appear in Part II on "The Introductions of Sociology" where the similarities and differences between superorganic and organic bodies are introduced. However, there is much more to Part II because here the basic theory is developed, which still informs contemporary sociology. Approximately two thirds of The Principles of Sociology is dedicated to analysis of human institutional systems. In these pages, which comprise Parts III-VIII of The Principles, Spencer mobilizes even more data to develop specific principles about the operation of institutional systems.The Principles of Sociology is filled with insights and still worthwhile principles on the dynamics of human organization. Portrayals of Spencer as a naive functionalist and advocate of laissez-faire are inaccurate and unfair, as these volumes demonstrate. Spencer presents us with a set of principles about the operation of human societies. This book will be essential to sociologists, and others professionally interested in social science theory and the history of ideas.