Reading Guide – Herbert Spencer “Progress: Its Law & Cause” From Illustrations of
Universal Progress; A Series of Discussions By Herbert Spencer, D. Appleton &
Company: New York. 1864
1. Spencer sets up his argument by stating that the term “Progress” is often not used
precisely or defined clearly. What does Spencer claim can be used as a real measure of
“social progress?” (cf. pg 2)
Social Progress is supposed to consist in the produce of a greater quantity and variety of
the articles required for satisfying men’s wants; increasing security of person and
property in widening freedom of action; whereas, rightly understood, social progress
consists in those changes of structure in the social organism which have entailed these
2. For Spencer, how are “organic” progress, homogeneity and heterogeneity related?
(cf. pp 2 – 3)
Organic progress consists in a change from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.
3. For Spencer, what is the relationship between “organic” progress and all other
forms of progress? (cf. p. 3 – “the law of progress”)
Organic progress is the law of all progress.
4. According to Spencer, how does the nebular hypothesis demonstrate progress?
(cf. p. 4)
Demonstrate progress through the solar system. Once everything was the same density,
etc (homo), then transforms in to sun, planets, etc, with all different qualities (heter)
5. According to Spencer, how does the increasing heterogeneity of the earth and its
geology relate to progress? (cf. pp. 5-8)
It related to progress because the earth has so many heterogeneity changes from the
lava, to the earths crust, and the mountains. Over time (progress) this is how earth was
6. According to Spencer, how does increasing heterogeneity of life forms
demonstrate progress? (cf. pp. 8 – 10).
It demonstrates progress because
7. According to Spencer, how does man’s biology, as heterogeneous life form, an
example of progress? (pp. 10 – 11)
Judging from the greater extent and variety of faculty he exhibits, we' may infer that the
civilized man has also a more complex or hetero- geneous nervous system than the
8. Based on supposed biological characteristics, in what ways does Spencer claim
that Europeans demonstrate greater “progress” than non-Europeans? ( Note how he claims these biological differences are supposedly be apparent even between human
infants). (cf. pp. 11 – 12).
The infant European has sun dry marked points of resemblance to the lower human
races; as in the flat- ness of the alae of the nose, the depression of its bridge, the
divergence and forward opening of the nostrils, the form of the lips, the absence of a
frontal sinus, the width between the eyes, the smallness of the legs
9. Beginning on page 12, in what ways does Spencer claim that the law of progress is
supposedly demonstrated socially between differing forms of society? According to
Spencer, which societies are the most socially advanced and why?
Society in its first and lowest form is a homoegeneous aggregation of individuals having
like powers and like functions.
The society that is doing the governing, besides the governed.
10. What is Spencer implying about industrialization and human progress on pp. 15 –
11. What weaknesses exist in Spencer’s arguments?
Reading Guide 2 – Nuer Articles Chapters 4, 5 & 6 from The Nuer By E. E. Evans-
Pritchard. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1969 ed. (Originally published 1940).
Chapter Four - The Political System
In this chapter, we get an in-depth perspective of the mechanics of the Nuer’s
segmentary lineage system. Evans-Pritchard shows how initially small feuds can lead to
fusion between different social levels (segments) and produce higher level episodes of
violence. But he also demonstrates how blood- feuds may be quickly resolved at lower
levels, especially between close kin, through the use of the “Leopard-skin chiefs” or
“earth priests” (pp. 159-161) although blood feuds between more distant levels and
segments may be allowed to go unresolved for years.
Chapter Four – The Political System
1. Into how many primary sections are the Lou tribe divided? Into how many
secondary sections is the Lou tribe divided? What term does Evans-Pritchard use to
describe the level of social division below the secondary sections? (p. 139).
The 2 primary sections of the Lou tribe were Mor and Gun. There are 5 secondary
sections. The term used to describe the level of social division below the secondary
sections is tertiary.
2. The Eastern Jikany are made of how many tribes? How many total primary sections
exist within the Eastern Jikany tribes? Based on the charts provided on pp. 140 & 141, what is the largest number of secondary sections that any primary section is divided
Made up of three tribes: Gaajok, Gaagwang, and Gaajak. The total primary sections
within the Eastern Jikary tribe is 9. The largest number of secondary sections that any
primary sextion is divided into is 5.
3. What does Evans-Pritchard mean when he claims that there exists a principle of
segmentation and opposition between Nuer segments? (pp. 142-143).
The tribes that are smaller are closer and more intimate. Each segment is itself
segmented and there is opposition between its parts. The members of any segment
unite for war against adjacent segments of the same order and unite with there
adjacent segments against larger sections.
4. Under what conditions might some Nuer social segments fuse or unite? (99.
143 – 147). What reason would be given for two segments uniting? (p. 143).
When Z1 fights Z2 no other section is involved. When Z1 fights Y1, Z1 and Z2 unite as
5. What is the principle of fusion and fission (described first on p. 148)?
Equilibrium between the tendency of all groups to segment, and the tendency of all
groups to combine with segments of the same order.
6. What kinds of events might start a blood feud (pp. 149-150)?
Blood-feuds are a tribal institution for they can only occur where a breach of law is
recognized since they are the way in which reparation is obtained. Such as dispute of
cow or invasion of someone’s property.
7. What weapon are men from the same village NOT permitted to use against each
other and why? (p. 150)
They are not allowed to use spears if in the same village, so it doesn’t start a blood-feud
and split up the community.
8. How are blood feuds settled? What is a leopard skin chief (or earth priest)?
All the adult males take part in a blood-feud and fight with spears to death. The leopard
skin chief may be able to intervene to prevent the fighting. The leopard skin chief’s
home is like a sanctuary to protect someone, but once they leave the home, they may
be speared down.
9. Where must blood feuds be settled the most quickly and why? (p. 155)
In smaller groups, this will help them to not break out again after settlement.
10. How much cattle is paid to end a blood feud? (p. 156) Depends to some extent on the strength of a man’s lineage and his kinship
11. What sort of social restrictions are imposed on people who are engaged in a
blood feud? (pp. 158-159)
Must not kill sons of the mother’s brother, father’s sister, or mother’s sister, because
these people do not belong to the slayer’s lineage.
12. What sort of payment is made for adultery? How is this payment
accomplished? (pp. 165-167)
Pays 5 cows and an ox, unless the man is impotent, when the adulterer can claim a cow
on the marriage of a female child of his adultery.
13. How much authority does a Leopard skin chief have? (pp. 164 and 172-176).
He can settle feuds and plays a minor role in the settlement of disputes other than
homicide. Might seem like great authority, but not so.
14. Who becomes leopard skin chief? (pp. 173-174).
Only certain lineages, some men