Herbert Spencer's Social Science: Normative Values and Cultural Neutrality
This paper will partly focus upon the history and philosphy of social science in that it assesses the work of Herbert Spencer against that of Weber, Marx, Tylor, Lubbock and Durkheim. This will be a contribution to the history of evolutionary social science. However, in addition, the paper will explore the potential of scientific analysis to retain ethical qualities. It will be demonstrated that Spencer's theory of culture was designed to ensure that science was not used to construct racist and imperial ideology: Instead, he crafted a notion of cultural neutrality which allowed the observer independence. Of course, such detachment carried its own costs, but they did not outweigh Spencer's determination to avoid employing scientific method in such a way as to promote cruelty or violence. It will be argued that Spencer's evolutionary theories still have valuable lessons for those social scientists whose research is motivated by Darwinianism or sociobiology.
Keywords: Spencer, History of Social Science, Ethics, Darwinism, Racism
Prof. Mark Francis
Professor, School of Political Science and Communication, University of Canterbury
I have held the chair in Political Science at the University of Canterbury for five years. I have been the Fowler Hamilton Senior Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford and the Leger Fellow in Canada.