POLC73 – Week 10 – 13/11/2012
Burke founded modern conservatism: slow reform, limited equality and liberty.
Classical liberalism (individual rights, limited government, reason, free market)
- Diverged between Welfare state liberalism (what we usually call liberalism today) and
Laissez-faire liberalism (which becomes linked to conservatism).
- David Richie (welfare state) and Herbert Spencer (Laissez-faire)
The New Toryism: The liberal ideology is no longer protecting people's freedom, but using militarism
and compulsory cooperation (traditionally Tory policies).
Traditional liberals had the principle of getting rid of domination to make people's lives better. New
liberals see making people's lives better as the point, not ridding domination.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
- Coined the term “survival of the fittest”
- His approach to social theory was based on Lamark's theory of development (inheritance of
- Puzzle: was he a Social Darwinist?
- Influenced by a radical background – but studied science and engineering.
- Same period as Marx and “The Communist Manifesto”
- Extremely influential in the US; but largely forgotten today.
Richard Hofstadter - Social Darwinism in American Political Thought
Spencer's scientific defence of “Laissez-Faire”
- Influenced by Malthus: Essay on the Principle of Population
- “The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such (the poor), to clear the world for them, to
make room for the better.”
- “If they (the indigent) are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should
live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they die.”
- Based on the passing of traits to children; if they don't die, the problem will just get worse.
- Opposed to state intervention, and denied that