[Spencer's "On Manners and Fashion" originally appeared in the April 1854 Westminster Review. This text has comes from the Project Gutenberg online version of the Everyman edition — George P. Landow]

Decorated initial A

ll institutions are alike in this, that however useful, and needful even, they originally were, they not only in the end cease to be so, but become detrimental. While humanity is growing, they continue fixed; daily get more mechanical and unvital; and by and by tend to strangle what they before preserved. It is not simply that they become corrupt and fail to act: they become obstructions. Old forms of government finally grow so oppressive, that they must be thrown off even at the risk of reigns of terror. Old creeds end in being dead formulas, which no longer aid but distort and arrest the general mind; while the State-churches administering them, come to be instruments for subsidising conservatism and repressing progress. Old schemes of education, incarnated in public schools and colleges, continue filling the heads of new generations with what has become relatively useless knowledge, and, by consequence, excluding knowledge which is useful. Not an organisation of any kind—political, religious, literary, philanthropic—but what, by its ever-multiplying regulations, its accumulating wealth, its yearly addition of officers, and the creeping into it of patronage and party feeling, eventually loses its original spirit, and sinks into a mere lifeless mechanism, worked with a view to private ends—a mechanism which not merely fails of its first purpose, but is a positive hindrance to it.

Related Materials

References

Spencer, Herbert. "On Manners and Fashion." Essays on Education and Kindred Subjects. London: Dent/Everyman, 1966.


Last modified 17 November 2019