The process of social evolution has been fascinating people for years, and there have been a number of theories concerning the way in which society functions and develops. Among the theories that stand out the most, the ones by Spencer, Comte and Marx should be mentioned. Though rendering the same issue, the three philosophers managed to approach the concept of society from completely different angles and yet come up with the ideas that cross at some points.
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Comte, perhaps, deserves to be mentioned first as the founder of the so-called “social physics”, known later as sociology. It is rather remarkable that Comte was the first to suggest looking at society as an organism, with each element having to be in its place and performing a particular function. Comte defined three stages that a society must pass to reach its peak, i.e., theological, metaphysical and positive.
Speaking of Spencer, the philosopher introduced a new way of envisioning evolution in society, though clearly borrowing some of the concepts from Comte’s theory. Spencer should be credited for actually coining the term “social evolution”; in fact, Spencer considered it a cosmic principle that can be applied to any society, life or matter.
As for Marx, his idea of social evolution revolved around economical relationships between individuals and companies. Marx also used Comte’s concept of society being an organism, yet the functions that its elements performed were tied in with major economical concepts.
Technically, it would be wrong to compare the theories suggested by three philosophers, though. Instead, their work should be viewed as a whole, with Comte creating the premises for one of the most significant social sciences, sociology, to be born. Spencer, in his turn, perfected Comte’s work, while Marx’s efforts helped envision the society as a mixture of social and economical interactions.
The founders of modern sociology, Spencer, Comte and Marx managed to create unique theories explaining the mechanism of society clockwork. Each offering his idea of how a society functions, they helped envision the complexity of society and understand the significance of its elements.
Comte, Auguste. The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte. Translated by Harriet Matineau. Kitchener, CA: London George Bell & Sons, 1896. Web.
Hodson, Geoffrey. “On the Evolution of Thorstein Vebler’s Evolutionary Economics.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 22, no. 41 (1998): 415–431. Web.
Smith, George. “Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Social Causation.” The Journal of Liberation Studies 5, no. 2 (1981): 113–152. Web.
- Auguste Comte, The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, translated by Harriet Matineau (Kitchener, CA: London George Bell & Sons, 1896): 335.
- George Smith, “Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Social Causation,” The Journal of Liberation Studies 5, no. 2 (1981): 129.
- Geoffrey Hodson, “On the Evolution of Thorstein Vebler’s Evolutionary Economics,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 22, no. 41 (1998): 416.