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Extra info for A History of Classical Sociology (Student's Library)
Their spokesmen considered that an identical environment did not exist in reality either for individuals (by virtue of differences in their reaction to one and the same natural conditions, and innate properties) or for cultures of different levels of development. Possibilism broke up the static conception of the environment as given once and for all with no relation to the active, historical subject. The historicism of this trend prompted it always to pose the matter concretely: an environment for what?
Such were the attempts at a ‗thermodynamic‘ interpretation of history, which sometimes employed physical theories, mistaken, but popular in their day, like that of ‗the thermal death of the universe‘. Motion, life, change, and history existed while there was inequality of energy. A state of social entropy in the future as a dead, inert equality, like the thermal death of the universe, was predicted from the thermodynamic laws of the constancy of the quantity of energy and the irreversibility of the transfer of energy from a higher level to a lower.
In spite of acute class contradictions, the British middle classes were complacently proud of the progress made, and looked to the future with confidence. That mood had its effect, as well, on Spencer‘s social philosophy. Spencer worked from 1837 to 1841 as an engineer and technician on a railway, simultaneously studying mathematics and natural sciences. Then, for several years, he contributed to the press. In 1853, having inherited a tidy legacy from an uncle, he resigned his post and began the modest life of an independent scientist and publicist.