Global Spencerism

The Communication and Appropriation of a British Evolutionist


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Today the name most closely associated with evolutionary theory is Charles Darwin. Given Darwin’s immense reputation it is easy to forget that Herbert Spencer, in his time, was just as famous as Darwin. It turns out that Spencer’s evolutionary thought was not what necessarily appealed to many of his readers, since they had their own sense of his identity and importance. By focusing on Spencer the evolutionist, scholars have tended to concentrate their attention on a rather narrow view of him that has come out of Anglo-American appropriations of his thought.

Spencer was one of the first international, public intellectuals whose views on psychology, religion, sociology, ethics, education, and biology captured the imagination of readers all over the world. The chapters will cover the communication and appropriation of Spencer’s ideas in Russia, the Middle East, China, Japan, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, the United States, Italy, Scandinavia, and France.

Contributors are: Li Bin, Juan Manuel Rodriguez Caso, Gowan Dawson, Heloisa Maria Bertol Domingues, Marwa Elshakry, Mark Francis, G. Clinton Godart, Michael Gordon, Paola Govoni, Rosaura Ruiz Gutiérrez, Hans Henrik Hjermitslev, Ricardo Noguera-Solano, Adriana Novoa, Greg Radick, Nathalie Richard, Ke Zunke.

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Bernard Lightman, Ph.D. (1979), Brandeis University, is Professor of Humanities at York University, Toronto. His publications include The Origins of Agnosticism (Johns Hopkins, 1987) and Victorian Popularizers of Science (University of Chicago Press, 2007). From 2004 to 2014 he was editor of the journal Isis.
Bernard Lightman

1 “What a Go-a-Head People They Are!”: The Hostile Appropriation of Herbert Spencer in Imperial Russia
Michael D. Gordin

2 Spencer’s Arabic Readers
Marwa Elshakry

3 Spencerism in Japan: Boom and Bust of a Theory
G. Clinton Godart

4 Spencer and Science Education in China
Ke Zunke and Li Bin

5 The Reforming Spencerians: William James, Josiah Royce and John Dewey
Mark Francis

6 Spencer’s American Disciples: Fiske, Youmans, and the Appropriation of the System
Bernard Lightman

7 The Ideology of the “Survival of the Fittest” during the Porfiriato in Mexico
Rosaura Ruiz Gutiérrez, Ricardo Noguera Solano, and Juan Manuel Rodríguez Caso

8 The Rise and Fall of Spencer’s Evolutionary Ideas in Argentina, 1870–1910
Adriana Novoa

9 Spencerism in Brazil: An Introduction
Heloisa Maria Bertol Domingues

10 The Importance of Being Quantified: Herbert Spencer in Liberal Italy, and Beyond
Paola Govoni

11 Education and Evolution: Appropriations of Herbert Spencer in Scandinavia, 1870–1920
Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

12 A ‘Spencerian Moment’ in French Cultural History? Spencer in France (1870–1890)
Nathalie Richard

Gowan Dawson and Gregory Radick
All interested in the history of evolutionary thought and in the global circulation of ideas.
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