This book is a study both of the political philosophy of Herbert Spencer, considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of Victorian Britain, and of the ideas of the Individualists, a group of political thinkers inspired by him to uphold the policy of "laissez-faire" during the 1880s and 1890s. Despite their contribution to 19th-century political debate, these thinkers have been neglected by historians, who have concentrated on the advocates of an enhanced role for government in economic and social affairs. The Individualists were forceful critics of this tendency to extend the frontiers of the state. This study of their ideas sheds light on the nature of late Victorian political argument, offering also a perspective on Spencer's political philosophy, which provided individualism with much of its intellectual justification. The book is intended to be of interest to those who wish to see free-market conservatism in an historical context. Scholars and students of modern British history and political thought should also find this work to be useful, especially those concerned with social, political, economic, and cultural history of the late 19th and early 20th century.
`tellingly augments what has become a wealth of scholarship on the character of political argument in Britain during the last decades of the nineteenth century ... his book is a valuable addition to the literature on late-Victorian political thought.'
American Historical Review, Oct 1993
`excellent account of the Spencerian complex in late-Victorian Britain'
Times Higher Education Supplement
`not only does the author make a contribution to the history of political thought; his work should be helpful to those trying to understand issues in the debate between liberals of the right and those on the left today'
Abraham Hirsch, Brooklyn College, Emeritus, The Southern Economic Journal, July 1993
`The study makes a number of important negative claims. Taylor maintains convincingly that Spencer's evolutionary theory was neither Darwinian nor Lamarckian but rooted in classical mechanics.'
EHR vol 110 issue 436
`an extremely engaging book ... Taylor has an admirable grasp of the literature and uses it to good effect in arguing cogently against many of the preconceptions and misunderstandings of Spencer's crucial ideas ... careful, scholarly and stimulating ... He has produced a highly original work which must serve as a reference point for future studies of Spencer's political thought.'
David Boucher, University of Wales, Swansea, History of Political Thought, Vol. XVIII, Issue 1, Spring 1997
Preface; The paradise lost of liberalism; Rivals to the Benthamite heritage; Progress and the struggle for existence; The formation of character; The organic conception of society; The individualist theory of history; The reworking of utilitarianism; Justice, property, and natural right; Individualism and conservatism; Select bibliography; Index