One of the most influential scholars of the Victorian era, Herbert Spencer was a true polymath. Through his written work, Spencer is considered to have contributed meaningfully to a wide range of subjects, including but not limited to ethics, religion, anthropology, economics, political theory, philosophy, literature, biology, sociology, and psychology. While most philosophers fail to achieve much of a following outside the academy of their professional peers, by the 1870s and 1880s Spencer had achieved an unparalleled popularity, selling over a million copies of his works during his own lifetime. Consequently, threads of Spencerian thought are found throughout nineteenth century writings of both academic and popular varieties. That being said, the popularity of Spencer’s works fell off dramatically in the twentieth century. They are now rarely taught. Spencer has mostly survived in the public consciousness for his work in political philosophy. Famously, he is the originator of the concept of social Darwinism and the phrase “survival of the fittest.” Both the phrase and the theory first appear in Spencer’s book Principles of Biology (1864) and contribute to the scholar’s reputation as a proto-libertarian or anarcho-capitalist.
Social Statistics; or, the Conditions Essential to Human Happiness was Spencer’s first book length work and first major foray into political philosophy. Originally published in Great Britain in 1851, Social Statistics lay’s out Spencer’s views on liberty and government. Through the monograph, he attempts to lay the foundations for a limited state based on a rigorous development of a doctrine of natural rights. Eventually, he argues, people will adapt to the requirements of living in a society to the extent that the need for a state will fall away entirely. Economist Murray Rothbard called Social Statistics "the greatest single work of libertarian political philosophy ever written."
This particular copy of Social Statistics is an American edition, and unlike many American printings of British works from that era, this copy was published by Spencer’s approved publisher rather than pirated and published without authorization. The binding is not original.
- Title: Social Statistics; or, The Conditions Essential to Human Happiness
- Author: Herbert Spencer
- Publisher: Appleton and Company
- Place: New York
- Year: 1865
- Length: 523pp
- Dimensions: 5” x 7.75” x 1.75”
- Condition: A library copy without a dustjacket, this book was bound in 1939 by Well Bindery in Waltham, MA. The red cloth-covered boards are in good condition—somewhat worn, particularly around the edges, and with some warping to the front cover. The binding remains tight. The title page is completely separate but inserted in the book. Either the page before or after the title page is missing. Aside from these two pages, the text block appears to be complete. The pages are generally clean—some small tears, folds, and pencil marks throughout. The text block is slightly warps, probably from water damage. A library stamp sits on the tops and bottom of the text block as well as on the title page. The title page stamp has bled into the pages surrounding it. A library pocket is affixed to the front pastedown, and the first endpaper has been glued down over top of it.