Society: The Bane Of Human Existence?

1438 words - 6 pages

Herbert Spencer made many astute assessments of the way societies work. He created theories to explain the way they grow and change and interact with one another. Spencer viewed society as an organism, and he referred to society as a super-organic system. He believed that, in both organic and super-organic systems, evolution was the result of the system becoming more differentiated. He emphasized three developmental tendencies shared by societies and organisms: 1) growth in size, 2) an increase in structure, and 3) an increase in functions. So, the more differentiated a society becomes, the harder it must work to integrate all of its parts. Spencer identified five basic stages of societal evolution: simple headless, simple headed, compound, doubly compound, and trebly compound. Then he said that each of these five stages has a regulatory system, an operative system, and a distributive system. Social control becomes an issue as a population and its functions grow. Thus, the society must put in place a regulatory system, which is usually in the form of a policing agency or a government. The operative system is the next to emerge. This is the management part of the society, which handles the production of goods and keeps all of the parts moving together smoothly. Finally, the distributive system forms. The distributive system handles all of the trade and travel issues; in other words, this system figures out how to get goods/people from one unit to another. Spencer had many complicated ways of classifying societies. Most simply, however, Spencer divided societies into two broad categories: militant and industrial. An industrial society is organized around the well being of its members, and decentralized authority helps things get done relatively smoothly. Its focus is on internal productivity and providing services to its members. The industrial society has social control balanced with guaranteed freedoms, and the flow of production is completely internal. When a society is under attack from any external or internal force, it becomes more militant. The society begins to focus on war and defense, authority becomes centralized and authoritarian, the amount of social control increases, and the society begins draining resources from its distributive and operative systems to put toward the war effort. Spencer believed that the industrial society is the more evolved society, although a society can move back and forth between the two. He did note, however, that a society remaining in militaristic mode too long will die. This is simply because the more resources you put into war efforts, the fewer resources remain for other things, and the weaker the society becomes.

At present, the United States is in a heavily militant state. On September 11, 2001, our country came under attack and immediately responded just as Herbert Spencer would have predicted. For over two years, we have had our eyes on the war in the Middle...

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