Spengler’s “Decline of the West”, 1922

Spengler was born in 1880, the first born child of a German mining family. When he was ten, he was trained in the Greco-Roman tradition, learning Greek, Latin, mathematics and art. However, he was also heavily influenced by Nietzche and Goethe’s writings. When he later entered college for a teaching degree, he continued his pursuits of the classics. Spengler was notorious for not including sources in his papers and essays and was heavily criticized for it during his time.

It is no surprise then that his work, “The Decline of the West” is steeped in Greco-Roman references and terms. He parallels the events leading to the end of Roman democracy to the coming end (so he says) of European democracy. It is understandable why Spengler takes a negative tone in his work. In the settlements of the Treaty of Versailles, it is safe to say that Germany got the short end of the stick, so to speak. So Spengler, a born-and-raised German must have felt disenfranchised when he saw his country humiliated and his investments lost. He became very poor before he eventually got his work published.

His message is prophetic and critical, the era of endless progress and materialism is over. The Industrial Revolution is over. A time of Caesars, so he says, is coming. The principles of enlightenment and education will end up hurting Europe in the end.

Question: Do you think that Spengler may have predicted the coming of Adolf Hitler, and Communism in Europe?

Author Info: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v17/v17n2p-2_Stimely.html

A Critical Phase Shift

The significance of The Decline of The West, extends way beyond surface level. Oswald Spengler, a german historian and philosopher, whose ideals in the early twentieth century surrounded civilizations and paradigm shifts between them. The Decline of the West is a book that describes the miraculous changes of world history, and the changes that might be faced with civilizations within the coming years. Through a historical/historicists lens, Spengler uses his knowledge of history to show the causes and effects of the worlds phases; using a very informative tone to present his point in the segment from the book. Through his language, he seems to target the general reader, to inform them of what is to come. The reader could have sympathized with it or revolted against Spengler’s opinion. The intent and message of this piece however goes along different lines. Spengler writes in this piece specifically the end of eras where money and intellectuals reign. He spoke about blood and instinct and how it will assist with the victory of the Caesars, as civilization shifted from Napoleonism to Caesarism. The people will obey the strong, and uniformity will lead a better world suited for the conditions present at the time.

Discussion for the Audience:

-It is interesting to see how Spengler writes to say – “Life will descend to a level of general uniformity, a new kind of primitivism, and the world will be better for it…” instead of saying how the changes that are present now will make the world a better place. The world will have to conform to the conditions not the other way around.

What do you think?