Men Versus the State: Herbert Spencer and Late Victorian Individualism

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Men Versus the State 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 important contribution to nineteenth-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 expand the frontiers of the State. This, the first comprehensive study of their ideas, sheds new light on the nature of late Victorian political argument. The book also provides an original perspective on Spencer's political philosophy, which provided Individualism with much of its intellectual justification. It will be of interest to anyone who wishes to set free-market conservatism in a historical context.