THE DECLINE OF THE WEST (German : Der Untergang des Abendlandes), or
THE DOWNFALL OF THE OCCIDENT, is a two-volume work by Oswald Spengler
, the first volume of which was published in the summer of 1918.
Spengler revised this volume in 1922 and published the second volume,
subtitled PERSPECTIVES OF WORLD HISTORY, in 1923.
The book introduces itself as a "Copernican overturning " involving
the rejection of the Eurocentric view of history, especially the
division of history into the linear "ancient -medieval -modern "
rubric . According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are
not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms . He
recognizes at least eight high cultures : Babylonian , Egyptian ,
Chinese , Indian , Mesoamerican (Mayan /
Aztec ), Classical (Greek
/Roman ), Arabian , Western or "European-American". Cultures have a
lifespan of about a thousand years of flourishing, and a thousand
years of decline. The final stage of each culture is, in his word use,
a "civilization ".
Spengler also presents the idea of Muslims , Jews and Christians , as
well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being 'Magian';
Mediterranean cultures of the antiquity such as
Ancient Greece and
Rome being 'Apollonian'; and the modern Westerners being 'Faustian'.
According to Spengler, the
Western world is ending and we are
witnessing the last season—"winter time"—of Faustian Civilization.
In Spengler's depiction, Western Man is a proud but tragic figure
because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual
goal will never be reached.
* 1 General context
* 2 Overview
* 2.1 Spenglerian terms
* 2.2 Spengler\'s Cultures
* 3 Meaning of history
* 4 Culture and
* 5 Races, peoples, and cultures
* 6 Religion\'s role
* 7 Democracy, media, and money
* 8 Mathematics
* 9 Reception
* 10 See also
* 10.1 Civilizational studies
* 10.2 Others influenced by Decline
* 11 Editions
* 12 References
* 13 Further reading
* 14 External links
Spengler relates that he conceived the book sometime in 1911 and
spent three years in writing the first draft. At the start of World
War I , he began revising it and completed the first volume in 1917.
It was published the following year when Spengler was 38 and was his
first work, apart from his doctoral thesis on
Heraclitus . The second
volume was published in 1922. The first volume is subtitled Form and
Actuality; the second volume is Perspectives of World-history.
Spengler's own view of the aims and intentions of the work are
sketched in the Prefaces and occasionally at other places.
The book received unfavorable reviews from most interested scholars
even before the release of the second volume. Spengler's veering
toward right-wing views in the second volume confirmed this reception,
and the stream of criticisms continued for decades. Nevertheless, in
Germany the book enjoyed popular success: by 1926 some 100,000 copies
A 1928 Time review of the second volume of Decline described the
immense influence and controversy Spengler's ideas enjoyed in the
1920s: "When the first volume of
The Decline of the West
The Decline of the West appeared in
Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated
European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism
spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to
read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so."
Spengler's world-historical outlook was informed by many philosophers
Goethe and to some degree
Nietzsche . He would later
further explain the significance of these two German philosophers and
their influence on his worldview in his lecture
Nietzsche and His
Century. His analytical approach is "
Analogy . By these means we are
enabled to distinguish polarity and periodicity in the world."
Morphology is a key part of Spengler's philosophy of history, using a
methodology which approached history and historical comparisons on the
basis of civilizational forms and structure, without regard to
In a footnote, Spengler describes the essential core of his
philosophical approach toward history, culture, and civilization:
Goethe stand for the philosophy of Becoming,
Kant the philosophy of Being... Goethe's notes and verse... must be
regarded as the expression of a perfectly definite metaphysical
doctrine. I would not have a single word changed of this: "The Godhead
is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the becoming and
the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and therefore,
similarly, the reason is concerned only to strive towards the divine
through the becoming and the living, and the understanding only to
make use of the become and the set-fast.(Letter to
Eckermann )" This
sentence comprises my entire philosophy.
Scholars now agree that the word "decline" more accurately renders
the intended meaning of Spengler's original German word "Untergang"
(often translated as the more emphatic "downfall"; "Unter" being
"under" and "gang" being "going", it is also accurately rendered in
English as the "going under" of the West). Spengler explained that he
did not mean to describe a catastrophic occurrence, but rather a
protracted fall—a twilight or sunset. (Sonnenuntergang is German for
sunset, and Abendland, his word for the West, literally means the
"evening land".) Writing in 1921 Spengler observed that he might have
used in his title the word Vollendung (which means 'fulfillment' or
'consummation') and saved a great deal of misunderstanding.
Nevertheless, "Untergang" can be interpreted in both ways, and after
World War II
World War II , some critics and scholars chose to read it in the
Spengler invests certain terms with unusual meanings not commonly
encountered in everyday discourse.
CULTURE/CIVILIZATION Spengler uses the two terms in a specific
manner, loading them with particular values. For him,
what a Culture becomes once its creative impulses wane and become
overwhelmed by critical impulses. Culture is the becoming,
Civilization is the thing become. Rousseau, Socrates, and Buddha each
mark the point where their Cultures transformed into Civilization.
They each buried centuries of spiritual depth by presenting the world
in rational terms—the intellect comes to rule once the soul has
APOLLONIAN/MAGIAN/FAUSTIAN These are Spengler's terms for Classical,
Arabian and Western Cultures respectively.
Apollonian Culture and
Civilization is focused around Ancient Greece
and Rome. Spengler saw its world view as being characterized by
appreciation for the beauty of the human body, and a preference for
the local and the present moment.
Magian Culture and
Civilization includes the Jews from about 400 BC,
early Christians and various Arabian religions up to and including
Islam. Its world feeling revolved around the concept of world as
cavern, epitomized by the domed Mosque, and a preoccupation with
essence. Spengler saw the development of this Culture as being
distorted by a too influential presence of older Civilizations, the
initial vigorous expansionary impulses of Islam being in part a
reaction against this.
Faustian Culture began in
Western Europe around the 10th century and
according to Spengler such has been its expansionary power that by the
20th century it was covering the entire earth, with only a few Regions
where Islam provides an alternative world view. The world feeling of
Faustian Culture is inspired by the concept of infinitely wide and
profound space, the yearning towards distance and infinity.
PSEUDOMORPHOSIS The concept of pseudomorphosis is one that Spengler
borrows from mineralogy and a concept that he introduces as a way of
explaining what are in his eyes half-developed or only partially
manifested Cultures. Specifically pseudomorphosis entails an older
Civilization so deeply ingrained in a land that a young
Culture cannot find its own form and full expression of itself. This
leads to the young soul being cast in the old molds, in Spengler's
words. Young feelings then stiffen in senile practices, and instead of
expanding creatively, it fosters hate toward the other older Culture.
Spengler believes that the
Magian pseudomorphosis began with the
Battle of Actium
Battle of Actium . Here the gestating Arabian Culture lost to the
Classical Civilization. He asserts that it should have been Mark
Antony who won. The battle was not the struggle of
Greece—that struggle had been fought out at
Cannae and Zama , where
Hannibal who stood as champion for Hellenism. Antony's victory
would have freed the
Magian Culture, but his defeat imposed Roman
Civilization on it.
In Russia, Spengler sees a young, undeveloped Culture laboring under
the Faustian (Petrine) form. Peter the Great distorted the tsarism of
Russia to the dynastic form of
Western Europe . The burning of Moscow
Napoleon was set to invade, he sees as a primitive expression of
hatred toward the foreigner. This was soon followed by the entry of
Alexander I into
Paris , the
Holy Alliance and the
Concert of Europe
Concert of Europe .
Here Russia was forced into an artificial history before its culture
was ready or capable of understanding its burden. This would result in
a hatred toward Europe, a hatred which Spengler argues poisoned the
womb of emerging new Culture in Russia. While he does not name the
Culture, he claims that
Tolstoy is its past and
Dostoyevsky is its
BECOMING/BEING For Spengler becoming is the basic element and being
is static and secondary, not the other way around. He advises that his
philosophy in a nutshell is contained in these lines from
"the God-head is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the
becoming and the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and
therefore, similarly the intuition is concerned only to strive towards
the divine through the becoming and the living, and logic only to make
use of the become and the set-fast".
BLOOD Spengler sees blood as the only power strong enough to
overthrow money, currently the dominant power of our age. Blood is
commonly understood to mean race-feeling, and this is partially true
but misleading. Spengler's idea of race has nothing to do with ethnic
identity, indeed he was hostile to racists in that sense. The book
talks about a population becoming a race when its united-in-outlook,
possibly diverse ethnic origins are not a concern. Crucially, Spengler
talks about the final struggle with money also being a battle between
capitalism and socialism, but again socialism in a special sense: "the
will to call into life a mighty politico-economic order that
transcends all class interests, a system of lofty thoughtfulness and
duty sense." He also writes "A power can be overthrown only by another
power, not by a principle, and only one power that can confront money
is left. Money is overthrown and abolished by blood. Life is alpha and
omega ... It is the fact of facts ... Before the irresistible rhythm
on the generation-sequence, everything built up by the
waking–consciousness in its intellectual world vanishes at the
last." Therefore, if we wanted to replace blood by a single word it
would be more correct to use "life-force" rather than "race-feeling".
Spengler lists eight hochkulturen or "High Cultures" that have
* Mesoamerican (Mayan /
* Classical (Greek /Roman )
* Faustian or Western (European /American )
The "Decline" is largely concerned with comparisons of the Classical
and Western Cultures, but some examples are taken from the Arabian,
Chinese, and Egyptian Cultures. Each Culture arises within a specific
geographical area and is defined by its internal coherence of style in
terms of art, religious behavior and psychological perspective.
Central to each Culture is its conception of space which is expressed
by an "Ursymbol". Although not amenable to a strictly logical
examination, Spengler's idea of Culture is, he claims, justifiable
through the existence of recurrent patterns of development and decline
across the thousand years of each Culture's active lifetime.
Spengler does not classify the Southeast Asian and Peruvian (Incan ,
etc.) cultures as hochkulturen; however he thinks Russia is, while
still defining itself, bringing into being a hochkultur.
MEANING OF HISTORY
Spengler distinguishes between ahistorical peoples and peoples caught
up in world history. While he recognizes that all people are a part of
history, he argues that only certain Cultures imbue a wider sense of
historical involvement. Thus some people see themselves as part of a
grand historical design or tradition , while others view themselves in
a self-contained manner. For the latter, there is no world-historical
For Spengler, a world-historical view points to the meaning of
history itself, by breaking the historian or observer out of his crude
culturally parochial classifications of history. By learning about
different courses taken by other civilizations, one can better
understand his own culture and identity . Those who still maintain a
historical view of the world are the very same who continue to "make"
history. Spengler asserts that life and humankind as a whole have an
ultimate aim . However, he maintains a distinction between
world-historical peoples, and ahistorical peoples—the former will
have a historical destiny as part of a High Culture, while the latter
will have a merely zoological fate. World-historical man's destiny is
self-fulfillment as a part of his Culture. Further, Spengler asserts
that not only is pre-cultural man without history, he loses his
historical weight as his Culture becomes exhausted and becomes a more
and more defined Civilization.
For example, Spengler classifies Classical and Indian civilizations
as ahistorical, whereas the Egyptian and Western civilizations
developed conceptions of historical time. He sees all Cultures as
necessarily placed on equal footing in the study of world-historical
development. From this idea flows a kind of historical relativism or
dispensationalism . Historical data, in Spengler's mind, are an
expression of their historical time, contingent upon and relative to
that context. Thus, the insights of one era are not unshakable or
valid in another time or Culture—"there are no eternal truths." Each
individual has a duty to look beyond their own Culture to see what
individuals of other Cultures have with equal certainty created for
themselves. What is significant is not whether the past thinkers'
insights are relevant today, but whether they were exceptionally
relevant to the great facts of their own time.
CULTURE AND CIVILIZATION
Spengler adopts an organic conception of Culture. Primitive Culture
is simply a collection, or sum, of its constituent and incoherent
parts (individuals , tribes , clans , etc.). Higher Culture, in its
maturity and coherence, becomes an organism in its own right,
according to Spengler. The Culture is capable of sublimating the
various customs , myths , techniques, arts , peoples, and classes into
a single strong undiffused historical tendency.
Spengler divides the concepts of Culture and Civilization, the former
focused inward and growing, the latter outward and merely expanding.
However, he sees
Civilization as the destiny of every Culture. The
transition is not a matter of choice—it is not the conscious will of
individuals, classes, or peoples that decides. Whereas Cultures are
"things-becoming", Civilizations are the "thing-become". As the
conclusion of a Culture's arc of growth, Civilizations are outwardly
focused, and in that sense artificial or insincere. Civilizations are
what Cultures become when they are no longer creative and growing. For
example, Spengler points to the Greeks and Romans, saying that the
imaginative Greek Culture declined into wholly practical Roman
Spengler also compares the "world-city " and -province as concepts
Civilization and Culture respectively. This argument has
elements of Marxist conceptions of a core and periphery . The city
draws upon and collects the life of broad surrounding regions. He
contrasts the "true-type" rural born, with the nomadic , traditionless
, irreligious , matter-of-fact, clever, unfruitful, and
contemptuous-of-the-countryman city dweller. In the cities he sees
only the "mob ", not a people, hostile to the traditions that
represent Culture (in Spengler's view these traditions are: nobility ,
church , privileges, dynasties , convention in art, and limits on
City dwellers possess cold intelligence that
confounds peasant wisdom , a new-fashioned naturalism in attitudes
towards sex which are a return to primitive instincts , and a dying
inner religiousness. Further, Spengler sees in urban wage disputes and
a focus on lavish sport expenditures for entertainment the final
aspects that signal the closing of Culture and the rise of the
Spengler has a low opinion of Civilizations, even those that engaged
in significant expansion, because that expansion was not actual
growth. One of his principal examples is that of Roman "world
domination". It was not an achievement because the Romans faced no
significant resistance to their expansion. Thus they did not so much
conquer their empire, but rather simply took possession of that which
lay open to everyone. Spengler asserts that the Roman Empire did not
come into existence because of the kind of Cultural energy that they
had displayed in the
Punic Wars . After the
Battle of Zama
Battle of Zama , Spengler
believes that the Romans never waged, or even were capable of waging,
a war against a competing great military power .
RACES, PEOPLES, AND CULTURES
A race, writes Spengler, has "roots", like a plant. It is connected
to a landscape. "If, in that home, the race cannot be found, this
means the race has ceased to exist. A race does not migrate. Men
migrate, and their successive generations are born in ever-changing
landscapes; but the landscape exercises a secret force upon the
extinction of the old and the appearance of the new one." In this
instance, he writes of "race" in the tribal and cultural rather than
the biological sense, a 19th-century use of the word still common when
For this reason, a race is not exactly like a plant:
Science has completely failed to note that race is not the same for
rooted plants as it is for mobile animals, that with the micro-cosmic
side of life a fresh group of characteristics appear and that for the
animal world it is decisive. Nor again has it perceived that a
completely different significance must be attached to 'races' when the
word denotes subdivisions within the integral race "Man." With its
talk of casual concentration it sets up a soulless concentration of
superficial characters, and blots out the fact that here the blood and
there the power of the land over the blood are expressing
themselves—secrets that cannot be inspected and measured, but only
livingly experienced from eye to eye. Nor are scientists at one as to
the relative rank of these superficial characters…
Spengler writes that, "Comradeship breeds races... Where a race-ideal
exists, as it does, supremely, in the Early period of a culture... the
yearning of a ruling class towards this ideal, its will to be just so
and not otherwise, operates (quite independently of the choosing of
wives) towards actualizing this idea and eventually achieves it." He
distinguishes this from the sort of pseudo-anthropological notions
commonly held when the book was written, and he dismisses the idea of
Aryan skull and a Semitic skull". He also does not believe
language is itself sufficient to breed races, and that "the mother
tongue" signifies "deep ethical forces" in Late Civilizations rather
than Early Cultures, when a race is still developing the language that
fits its "race-ideal".
Closely connected to race, Spengler defines a "people" as a unit of
the soul. "The great events of history were not really achieved by
peoples; they themselves created the peoples. Every act alters the
soul of the doer." Such events include migrations and wars. For
example, the American people did not migrate from Europe, but were
formed by events such as the American Revolution and the U.S. Civil
War. "Neither unity of speech nor physical descent is decisive." What
distinguishes a people from a population is "the inwardly lived
experience of 'we'", which exists so long as a people's soul lasts.
"The name Roman in
Hannibal 's day meant a people, in
Trajan 's time
nothing more than a population." In Spengler's view: "Peoples are
neither linguistic nor political nor zoological, but spiritual units."
Spengler disliked the contemporary trend of fusing a definition of
race similar to his with the biological definition. "Of course, it is
quite often justifiable to align peoples with races, but 'race' in
this connexion must not be interpreted in the present-day Darwinian
sense of the word. It cannot be accepted, surely, that a people were
ever held together by the mere unity of physical origin, or, if it
were, could maintain that unity for ten generations. It cannot be too
often reiterated that this physiological provenance has no existence
except for science—never for folk-consciousness—and that no people
was ever stirred to enthusiasm by this ideal of blood purity. In race
(Rasse haben) there is nothing material but something cosmic and
directional, the felt harmony of a Destiny, the single cadence of the
march of historical Being. It is the incoordination of this (wholly
metaphysical) beat which produces race hatred... and it is resonance
on this beat that makes the true love—so akin to hate—between man
To Spengler, peoples are formed from early prototypes during the
Early phase of a Culture. "Out of the people-shapes of the Carolingian
Visigoths , Lombards
—arise suddenly the
Germans , the French , the Spaniards , the
Italians ." These peoples are products of the spiritual "race" of the
great Cultures, and "people under a spell of a Culture are its
products and not its authors. These shapes in which humanity is seized
and moulded possess style and style-history no less than kinds of art
or mode of thought. The people of Athens is a symbol not less than the
Doric temple, the Englishman not less than modern physics. There are
peoples of Apollinian, Magian, and Faustian cast... World history is
the history of the great Cultures, and peoples are but the symbolic
forms and vessels in which the men of these Cultures fulfill their
In attempts to tie race and culture together, Spengler echoes ideas
similar to those of
Friedrich Ratzel and
Rudolf Kjellén . These
ideas, which figure proeminently in the second volume of the book,
were common throughout German culture at the time, and would be the
most significant elements for the National Socialists .
In his later works, such as
Man and Technics (1931) and The Hour of
Decision (1933), Spengler expanded upon his "spiritual" theory of race
and tied it to his metaphysical notion of eternal war and his belief
that "Man is a beast of prey". The authorities however banned the
Spengler is neither wholly pro-religion nor anti-religion , but he
does differentiate between manifestations of religion that appear
within a Civilization's developmental cycle. He sees each Culture as
having an initial religious identity, which eventually results in a
reformation -like period, followed by a period of rationalism , and
finally entering a period of second religiousness that correlates with
decline. Intellectual creativeness of a Culture's Late period begins
after the reformation, usually ushering in new freedoms in science.
The scientific stage associated with post-reformation Puritanism
contains the fundamentals of Rationalism. Eventually rationalism
spreads throughout the Culture and becomes the dominant school of
thought. To Spengler, Culture is synonymous with religious
creativeness. Every great Culture begins with a religious trend that
arises in the countryside, is carried through to the cultural cities,
and ends in materialism in the world-cities.
Spengler described the process by which Enlightenment rationalism
undermines and destroys itself, passing from unlimited optimism to
unqualified skepticism. The Cartesian self-centered rationalism leads
to schools of thought that do not cognize outside of their own
constructed worlds, ignoring actual every-day life experience. It
applies criticism to its own artificial world until it exhausts itself
in meaninglessness. In reaction to the educated elites, the masses
give rise to the Second Religiousness, which manifests as deeply
suspicious of academia and science.
The Second Religiousness appears as a harbinger of the decline of
Civilization into an ahistorical state. The Second
Religiousness occurs concurrently with Caesarism, the final political
constitution of Late Civilization. Caesarism is the rise of an
authoritarian ruler, a new 'emperor' akin to Caesar or Augustus,
taking the reins in reaction to a decline in creativity, ideology and
energy after a culture has reached its high point and become a
civilization. Both the Second Religiousness and Caesarism demonstrate
the lack of youthful strength or creativity that the Early Culture
once possessed. The Second Religiousness is simply a rehashing of the
original religious trend of the Culture.
DEMOCRACY, MEDIA, AND MONEY
Spengler asserts that democracy is simply the political weapon of
money, and the media are the means through which money operates a
democratic political system. The thorough penetration of money's power
throughout a society is yet another marker of the shift from Culture
Democracy and plutocracy are equivalent in Spengler's argument. The
"tragic comedy of the world-improvers and freedom-teachers" is that
they are simply assisting money to be more effective. The principles
of equality , natural rights , universal suffrage , and freedom of the
press are all disguises for class war (the bourgeois against the
aristocracy). Freedom, to Spengler, is a negative concept, simply
entailing the repudiation of any tradition. In reality, freedom of the
press requires money, and entails ownership, thus serving money at the
end. Suffrage involves electioneering , in which the donations rule
the day. The ideologies espoused by candidates, whether
Liberalism , are set in motion by, and ultimately serve, only money.
"Free" press does not spread free opinion—it generates opinion,
Spengler admits that in his era money has already won, in the form of
democracy. But in destroying the old elements of the Culture, it
prepares the way for the rise of a new and overpowering figure: the
Caesar. Before such a leader, money collapses, and in the Imperial Age
the politics of money fades away.
Spengler's analysis of democratic systems argues that even the use of
one's own constitutional rights requires money, and that voting can
only really work as designed in the absence of organized leadership
working on the election process. As soon as the election process
becomes organized by political leaders, to the extent that money
allows, the vote ceases to be truly significant. It is no more than a
recorded opinion of the masses on the organizations of government over
which they possess no positive influence whatsoever.
Spengler notes that the greater the concentration of wealth in
individuals, the more the fight for political power revolves around
questions of money. One cannot even call this corruption or
degeneracy, because this is in fact the necessary end of mature
On the subject of the press, Spengler is equally contemptuous.
Instead of conversations between men, the press and the "electrical
news-service keep the waking-consciousness of whole people and
continents under a deafening drum-fire of theses, catchwords ,
standpoints, scenes, feelings, day by day and year by year." Through
the media, money is turned into force—the more spent, the more
intense its influence.
For the press to function, universal education is necessary. Along
with schooling comes a demand for the shepherding of the masses, as an
object of party politics. Those that originally believed education to
be solely for the enlightenment of each individual prepared the way
for the power of the press, and eventually for the rise of the Caesar.
There is no longer a need for leaders to impose military service ,
because the press will stir the public into a frenzy, clamor for
weapons, and force their leaders into a conflict.
The only force which can counter money, in Spengler's estimation, is
blood. As for Marx , his critique of capitalism is put forth in the
same language and on the same assumptions as those of
Adam Smith . His
protest is more a recognition of capitalism's veracity, than a
refutation. The only aim is to "confer upon objects the advantage of
Mathematics is the object of the first chapter of Spengler's book,
which suggest its importance there. Conceptions of space, as expressed
by an "Ursymbol" are central for each culture and, along with time and
number, they form a specific "mathematical style". Against the
universal validity of mathematical results, Spengler asserts that
mathematics is not a single science but a plurality of sciences.
He notes that in Greek classical mathematics there are only integers
and no real concepts of limits or infinity . Therefore, without a
concept of the infinite, all events of the distant past were viewed as
equally distant, thus
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great had no problem declaring
himself a descendant of a god. On the other hand, the western
world—which has concepts of the zero , the infinite, and the
limit—has a historical world-view which places a high amount of
importance on exact dates.
Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno published an essay entitled "Spengler
after the Downfall" (in German : Spengler nach dem Untergang) to
commemorate what would have been Oswald Spengler's 70th birthday.
Adorno reassessed Spengler's thesis three decades after it had been
put forth, in light of the catastrophic destruction of Nazi Germany
(although Spengler had not meant "Untergang" in a cataclysmic sense,
this was how most authors after WWII interpreted it).
As a member of the Frankfurt
School of Marxist critical theory,
Adorno's professed project in this essay was to "turn (Spengler's)
reactionary ideas toward progressive ends." Thus Adorno conceded that
Spengler's insights were often more profound than those of his more
liberal contemporaries, and his predictions more far-reaching. Adorno
sees the rise of the Nazis as confirmation of Spengler's ideas about
"Caesarism" and the triumph of force-politics over the market. Adorno
also draws parallels between Spengler's critique of Enlightenment and
his own analysis of Enlightenment's self-destructive tendencies.
However, Adorno also criticizes Spengler for an overly deterministic
view of history, ignoring the unpredictable role that human initiative
plays at all times. He quotes the contemporary Austrian poet Georg
Trakl : "How sickly seem everything that grows" (from the poem
"Heiterer Frühling") to illustrate that decay contains new
opportunities for renewal. Adorno also criticizes Spengler's use of
language, which overly relies on fetishistic terms like "Soul",
"Blood" and "Destiny".
Some, such as
Amaury de Riencourt in The Coming Caesars, maintain
that Spengler's predictions have been borne out as the United States
has pushed aside the other powers of the West and established a Pax
Americana . De Reincourt's work suggested that the United States would
enter its Caesarian phase in the 1990s. They also point to trends in
arts and philosophy .
On the other hand, it has been argued that Spengler believed that the
West's final, "Caesaristic" phase was destined to be fulfilled under
German domination; Germany's defeat in the two World Wars has
therefore prevented that transition from taking place. Spengler did
warn that Hitler was not the right man to guide
Europe into the
preliminary stages of Caesarism; he thought that Hitler would badly
mishandle the whole process.
Ibn Khaldun : wrote in his magnum opus ,
Muqaddimah , about the
rise and fall of dynasties and the formation of sedentary
civilization. He takes an empirical and religious approach to history
and sociology, and focuses mostly on the Islamic world. He is
considered to be one of the earliest sociological writers. Influenced
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee .
Giambattista Vico : Vico wrote
Scienza Nuova positing a
three-stage rise and decline pattern which pertains to every nation's
historical path. He was the pioneer of ethnology as a discipline of
Nikolai Danilevsky : a conservative Russian ethnologist,
Danilevsky pioneered the use of biological and morphological metaphors
in the comparison of cultures.
Konstantin Leontiev : a conservative Russian social and political
thinker. He proposed, in 1875, that civilizations mirror natural
organisms in experiencing growth and flowering followed by decline and
death. According to Leontiev, the former period is marked by
increasing diversity while the latter by progressive simplification.
Leontiev, like Spengler later, felt that the West had moved into the
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee :
Toynbee wrote a similar comparative study of
the rise and decline of civilizations,
A Study of History
A Study of History , somewhat
concurrently with Spengler, which was released much later, around the
World War II
World War II .
* Alexander Zelitchenko : a Russian psychologist, philosopher,
theologian and historian in his Svet Zhizni (Light of Life) continues
elaboration of Spengler's theory from the point of view of
developmental psychology correcting some minor errors and shows how
changing one other cultures develop human psyche creating new patterns
of mental activity.
Fernand Braudel : during the
Cold War Braudel wrote A History of
Civilizations (1963), a comparative history of civilizations, which
includes all social sciences. It was revised in 1987, but failed as a
* Samuel Huntington : Professor Huntington wrote The Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order , a comparative look at
civilizations in the post-
Cold War order of international relations.
His work has been likened to Spengler's. Huntington also refers to
Spengler himself on various occasions.
Neagu Djuvara : a Romanian historian who wrote Civilisations et
lois historique. Essai d'étude comparée des civilisations
(Civilizations and Historical Laws. Essay of Comparative Studies on
Civilizations), Mouton, 1975.
Jeremy Griffith : an Australian biologist who has developed a
theory comparable to Spengler's in which the growth of civilisations
is analyzed in terms of the human life span of youthful vigour and
aged fatigue. Perhaps differences arise in how much context the author
can muster within brevity; however Griffith has grounded such ideas in
contemporary evolutionary theory making his work an important gloss on
or complement to Spengler's thesis.
Carroll Quigley : An American historian who developed an
analytical framework on civilizational studies in the work: The
Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis.
OTHERS INFLUENCED BY DECLINE
Paul Nitze : author of
NSC-68 , a foundational document in the
Cold War strategy of containment .
Shamil Basayev : Chechen warlord given Decline as a gift by a
Russian radio journalist. He reportedly read it in one night and
settled on his plan to organize life in Chechnya.
Henry Kissinger : National Security Advisor and Secretary of State
to presidents Nixon and Ford, Kissinger stated he was influenced by
Spengler and urged Nixon to read Decline of the West.
* Samuel Huntington seems to have been heavily influenced by
The Decline of the West
The Decline of the West in his "
Clash of Civilizations
Clash of Civilizations "
Joseph Campbell an American professor, writer, and orator best
known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and
comparative religion claimed Decline of the West was his biggest
Northrop Frye , reviewing the Decline of the West, said that
"If... nothing else, it would still be one of the world's great
Ludwig Wittgenstein named Spengler as one of his philosophical
Camille Paglia has listed
The Decline of the West
The Decline of the West as one of the
influences on her 1990 work of literary criticism
Sexual Personae .
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs referred repeatedly to Decline as a pivotal
influence on his thoughts and work.
Martin Heidegger was deeply affected by Spengler's work, and
referred to him often in his early lecture courses.
James Blish in his books
Cities in Flight , uses many of
Whittaker Chambers often refers to "Crisis," a concept influenced
by Spengler, in Witness (more than 50 pages, including a dozen times
on the first page mentioned), in Cold Friday (1964, more than 30
pages), and in other pre-Hiss Case writings ("His central feeling,
repeated in hundreds of statements and similies, is that the West is
going into its Spenglerian twilight, a breaking down in which
Communism is more a symptom than an agent. )
* Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of the West. Ed. Arthur Helps, and
Helmut Werner. Trans. Charles F. Atkinson. Preface Hughes, H. Stuart.
New York: Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN 0-19-506751-7
* ^ Spengler O., Op.laud., vol.1, Intro. $6.
* ^ According to some it was the
Agadir Crisis that prompted his
writing; see the publisher's note on the first page of the 'First
Vintage Books Edition' (2006).
* ^ In 1921
Otto Neurath published the pamphlet Anti-Spengler and
Leonard Nelson wrote a book-length parody Spuk: Einweihung in das
Geheimnis der Wahrsagekunst Oswald Spenglers.
* ^ Hughes S., (1952, reed 1995) Oswald Spengler, a critical
* ^ Joll J., Two Prophets of the Twentieth Century: Spengler and
Toynbee . Rev. of Int. Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2 (April 1985), pp.
* ^ "Books: Patterns in Chaos". TIME. 1928-12-10. Retrieved
* ^ "
Nietzsche And His Century". Home.alphalink.com.au. 1924-10-15.
* ^ vol.1, Intro., last note
* ^ Spengler O., Pessimismus?, Preußisches Jahrbuch, April 1921,
* ^ Kroeber A. , Kluckhohn C., (1950)"Culture: a review of the
* ^ This paragraph summarises vol.2, chap.II, §§1-2
* ^ vol.2, chap.2, II, §7
* ^ vol.2, chap.2, II, §9
* ^ because of Spengler's disdain for the Nazis—see: Spengler's
The Hour of Decision
* ^ Oswald Spengler, "The Decline of the West," New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1962, p. 396.
* ^ vol.1., chap.1,$4
* ^ McNaughton, D.L. (2016). "Cultural Souls reflected in their
Mathematics: the Spenglerian interpretation". Scientific Culture.
University of the Aegean. 2.1: 1–6.
* ^ Adorno T., (1982), Spengler after the Decline in Prisms (Trans.
Nicholsen and Weber), MIT press, pp. 51–72 ISBN 0-262-51025-1 .
Adorno gave a conference on Spengler in 1938, reworked it as an
English text in 1941 ('Spengler Today') and lastly published the
German essay, see Gesammelte Schriften in 20 Banden, - Bd. 10: Erste
Halfte, Kulturkritik und Gesellschaf, pp. 47–71.
* ^ McNaughton, D.L. (2012). "Spengler\'s Philosophy, and its
Europe has \'lost its way\'". Comparative
Civilizations Review. ISCSC, Michigan, USA. 67: 7–15.
* ^ See Spengler's The Hour of Decision pp. xiv et seq., xii, 7.
* ^ Archived June 17, 2006, at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Stijn Kuipers, De Honderdjarige Ondergang van het Avondland. De
doorwerking van Oswald Spenglers 'Untergang des Abendlandes' in Samuel
Huntingtons 'Clash of Civilizations' (2017), Academia.edu
* ^ Samuel P. Huntington, The
Clash of Civilizations
Clash of Civilizations and the
Remaking of World Order (New York, 2003), p. 40-42, 44, 55, 76, 83.
* ^ Murphy, Kim. (10 September 2004) "Chechen Warlord Always Brazen
– but Never Caught",
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times , pp. A1.
* ^ Stijn Kuipers, (2017), De Honderdjarige Ondergang van het
Avondland. De doorwerking van Oswald Spenglers \'Untergang des
Abendlandes\' in Samuel Huntingtons \'Clash of Civilizations\',
* ^ Samuel P. Huntington, The
Clash of Civilizations
Clash of Civilizations and the
Remaking of World Order (New York, 2003), p. 40-42, 44, 55, 76, 83.
* ^ Campbell, Joseph (1972). Myths to Live By. Bantam Books. p. 84.
ISBN 0-553-27088-5 .
* ^ Frye N., "The Decline of the West" by Oswald Spengler,
Daedalus, Vol. 103, No. 1, Twentieth-Century Classics Revisited
(Winter, 1974), pp. 1–13
* ^ Wittgenstein L.,
Culture and Value , London: Blackwell.
* ^ Paglia, Camille (1993). Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays.
London: Penguin Books. p. 114. ISBN 0-14-017209-2 .
* ^ Ted Morgan (1988). Literary Outlaw: The life and times of
William S. Burroughs.
* ^ Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy, 219
* ^ Martin Heidegger, Letter to Karl Jaspers on 21 April 1920,
Briefwechsel 1920-1963, p.15
* ^ Otto Pöggeler, "Heideggers politisches Selbstverständnis",
in: Heidegger und die praktische Philosophie, p. 26
* ^ Eric Gregerson (2016). Encyclopedia Britannica James Blish.
* ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House.
pp. 799 (total). LCCN 52005149 . Retrieved 2 January 2017.
* ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1964). Witness. New York: Cold Friday.
Retrieved 2 January 2017.
* ^ Chambers, Whittaker (January 1944). "
Historian and History
Maker". American Mercury. access-date= requires url= (help )
* ^ Chambers, Whittaker (17 March 1947). "The Challenge". TIME.
Retrieved 2 January 2017.
* ^ "Cold Friday by Whittaker Chambers". Kirkus. 5 October 1964.
Retrieved 2 January 2017.
* William H. McNeill , 1963 . The Rise of the West: A History of the
Human Community , University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-56141-7
. Synopsis, Table of Contents Summary and scrollable preview.
* Scruton, Roger , "Spengler's Decline of the West" in The
Philosopher on Dover Beach, Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1990. ISBN
* Spengler, Oswald ♦
The Decline of the West