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1912 edition of Social Statics. Courtesy Open Library.

Social Statics, or The Conditions essential to Happiness specified, and the First of them Developed is an 1851 book by the British polymath Herbert Spencer.


In the book, Spencer uses the term "fitness" in applying his ideas of Lamarckian evolution to society, saying for example that "It is clear that any being whose constitution is to be moulded into fitness for new conditions of existence must be placed under those conditions. Or, putting the proposition specifically — it is clear that man can become adapted to the social state, only by being retained in the social state. This granted, it follows that as man has been, and is still, deficient in those feelings which, by dictating just conduct, prevent the perpetual antagonism of individuals and their consequent disunion, some artificial agency is required by which their union may be maintained. Only by the process of adaptation itself can be produced that character which makes social equilibrium spontaneous."

Despite it commonly being attributed to this book, it was not until his Principles of Biology of 1864 that Spencer coined the phrase "survival of the fittest",[1] that he would later apply to economics as well as biology. This was a key tenet of so-called Social Darwinism.

The book was published by John Chapman of London.


In Lochner v. New York, justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., arguing in dissent of the court's verdict that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution required state legislation to respect an individual's liberty of contract, famously wrote: "The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics."

Economist Murray Rothbard called Social Statics "the greatest single work of libertarian political philosophy ever written."[2]

See also[]


  1. "Letter 5145 — Darwin, C. R. to Wallace, A. R., 5 July (1866)". Darwin Correspondence Project. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  2. Doherty, Brian, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, pg. 246

External links[]

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