Portrait of Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer observes that class structures emerge in societies as a result of war and violence (1882)

Found in: The Principles of Sociology, vol. 2 (1898)

In his discussion of the origin of the state and the elites which control it, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) notes that war made it possible for class and exploitation to emerge, whether between men and women or between master and slave:


Where the life is permanently peaceful, definite class-divisions do not exist. … As, at first, the domestic relation between the sexes passes into a political relation, such that men and women become, in militant groups, the ruling class and the subject class; so does the relation between master and slave, originally a domestic one, pass into a political one as fast as, by habitual war, the making of slaves becomes general. It is with the formation of a slave-class, that there begins that political differentiation between the regulating structures and the sustaining structures, which continues throughout all higher forms of social evolution.