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Conceptualizing the StateInnovation and Dispute in British Political Thought 1880-1914$
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James Meadowcroft

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206019

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206019.001.0001

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Herbert Spencer, Hugh Cecil, and the State

Herbert Spencer, Hugh Cecil, and the State

(p.69) 2 Herbert Spencer, Hugh Cecil, and the State
Conceptualizing the State


Oxford University Press

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) and Hugh Cecil (1869–1956) each made significant contributions to arguments about the state during the period with which this book is concerned. There are significant parallels between these two thinkers' approaches to the state. Both men opposed government interference with economic processes, vocally supporting ‘freedom of contract’ and free trade. Both men considered disturbance of the existing (historically and market-determined) distribution of wealth as immoral, rejecting redistributive taxation and denying all citizenship-based claims to state financial assistance. They also resisted movement towards adult suffrage and formally invoked the idea of political ‘justice’ to delimit the legitimate sphere of state action. This chapter compares the views of Spencer and Cecil concerning the state and politics in Britain and its relation to religion, society, militancy, industrialism, justice, freedom, and rights.

Keywords:   Britain, politics, state, Herbert Spencer, Hugh Cecil, government interference, political justice, financial assistance, religion, society

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