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The evolutionary sociology of J.Turner: An introduction to the concept of Spencer selection

Research Article

Dmitry S. Grigoryev Candidate of Psychology
HSE University, Moscow, Russia
ORCID ID=0000-0003-4511-7942
The evolutionary sociology of J.Turner: An introduction to the concept of Spencer selection.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 1. P. 187-201

Дата поступления статьи: 09.09.2021
Topic: Young Researcher's Tribune

For citation:
Grigoryev D. S. The evolutionary sociology of J.Turner: An introduction to the concept of Spencer selection. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 1. P. 187-201
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2022.13.1.781


This paper describes the main ideas of J.Turner related to his concept of Spencer selection. In his concept, he made an attempt to formulate the basic principles of Spencer selection, and also provided an argument showing how H.Spencer's evolutionary approach, contrary to popular belief, can be relevant for sociology today. J.Turner believes that the main driving forces of human evolution strengthened (or introduced) certain cognitive, motivational and behavioural tendencies, and people used these tendencies purposefully to create a certain culture and social structure. H.Spencer's explanation does not directly ignore sociological explanations of the dynamics and evolution of social systems, unlike simple modern evolutionary explanations of institutionalisation in terms of evolving behavioural tendencies based on the concept of natural (Darwinian) selection. The latter are used in evolutionary psychology and sociobiology based on implicit assumptions about the automatic nature of the process of transforming neurological reactions and behavioural tendencies into social structures and institutions. The basis of Spencerian selection is formed by a certain set of needs of people (individual level) and social differentiation of institutional organisation (reproduction, regulation, production and distribution) as the population grows (societal level), as well as changes caused by war with their specific dynamics. Thus, Darwinian ideas about the natural selection of individual organisms can be counted as sufficient for understanding and explantion of the evolution and dynamics of the layers of sociocultural phenomena traditionally studied by sociologists. For this purpose, it is necessary to turn to a special type of selection of superorganisms, formulated by H.Spencer in his works at the dawn of the formation of sociology itself as a separate science. In addition, in itself, such a combination of sociological and biological models of social processes is promising for the development of individual multidisciplinary research programmes that can subsequently significantly strengthen and enrich the social sciences as a whole.


Herbert Spencer, Jonathan Turner, evolutionary sociology, natural selection, needs, environmental adaptation, functionalism

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