Industrial-Sized Deals TextBTS15 Shop Women's Handbags Learn more nav_sap_plcc_6M_fly_beacon $5 Albums $5 Off Fire TV Stick Off to College Essentials Shop Popular Services TransparentGGWin TransparentGGWin TransparentGGWin  Amazon Echo Starting at $99 Kindle Voyage Gear Up for Football Learn more

The Decline of the West (Abridged)
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$12.39+Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

214 of 231 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2007
This paperback edition is NOT "The Decline of the West" by Ostwald Spengler. It is an abridgement of that work perpetrated by one Arthur Helps apparently from a German abrdigement by Helmut Werner and an English translation (of the original or the abridgement?) by Charles Francis Atkinson. So if you buy this, you're not buying Spengler (leave aside the issue of how much of Spengler you're getting when you have to read it in translation - who would want to give up all the literature in the world written in languages he doesn't read?). What you're buying is sort-of Spengler.
Now, in fairness, at 400+ pages this isn't exactly the Classic Comic Book retellng of Spengler's long and complex work. But it isn't that work either. And it is very hard to tell this from the Amazon announcement or description of the book. And that's simply wrong. It's a deception. I don't think it's one that was done to trick people. It's more likely the product of sloppiness or inattention.
Some people may believe that a shortened Spengler is just fine for their purposes. I have no disagreement with them. My concern is that those who, like me, would never have even considered buying an abridgement of a book like this can be misled into doing so by an inaccurate description of what the book is.
So now I have a book to return instead of to read. I hope to save someone else that inconvenience.
99 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
96 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2006
This postmodern chronicle of the western world by early 20th century German historian and philosopher, Oswald Spengler, offers a lot for today's reader despite its flaws. It's an incredibly rich and complex analysis, attacking the causal factors of the development of western culture on many fronts simultaneously: historically, scientifically, artistically, architecturally, ecclesiastically, and so much more. This book is capable of describing many different aspects of western culture to many different readers, depending on who they happen to be and what their interest in western history is. I will only mention three aspects of Spengler's work in my review, since these aspects are what grabbed my attention, bearing in mind that the book contains much more than what I touch on here.

A. Spengler, a westerner himself, constructs detailed accounts in describing the historical development of western Europe. One of his main theses is a distinction between culture and civilization, which he derives from a credible, if difficult to falsify model for a universal cycle of human cultural growth, followed by decline into advanced civilization. For those familiar with biological theory, Spengler's model is essentially a growth curve. The familiar biological model is the lag phase, then the log phase, followed by the stationary phase, and ending in the death phase; which repeats itself virtually ad infinitum. In Spengler's model he labels these phases, respectively, after the seasons, beginning with spring and ending with winter. The spring-time of a people is a mythical phase, where settled economic life grows from a rural peasantry. This is followed by the summer, or cultural phase of strong and dynamic growth in all important aspects of a people; of economic, religious, martial, and other relevant human impulses. Then comes the fall, where dogma forms. Where adult-like reason takes root from the innocent cultural phase and puritan oversight of national religion and government begin to set hard like concrete. Finally, the winter of a people is when the national personality and traditions lose their effectiveness. Civilized and urbane money and economic issues tend to become preimminent over the cultural issues. Technology and irreligion become rampant. This cycle is not a modern phenomena, but repeats itself as seen in ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec civilizations; and again, currently in America.

B. Spengler's style in elucidating a history of the west, and developing an hypothesis of universal and collective human behavior, is punctuated by the era in which he wrote: the early 20th century. Much of the historical analysis before and after this era lacks the materialist, psychoanalytical, and structural influence that typified thinking and literature when Spengler wrote. Published in 1926, The Decline of the West contains that biting air of criticism and structuralism so fecund in those times. This critical structural analysis gives Spengler's work a sharper contrast and greater depth of field than would likely have been possible for a writer from before or after Spengler's time. This is not to take away from Spengler's native insight and acuity, which was nevertheless, likely heightened by the charged literary atmosphere of early 20th century Germany.

C. The way Spengler psychoanalyzes the structure of history through art and architecture is almost wholey absent from the majority of standard historical analyses. Reading Spengler makes one aware of this common lack. This is one of the strong points of this book, since art and architecture express so much of what a culture is and why it thinks in the ways it does.

All in all, despite the typical fallacies of sex and race Spengler repeats, once could say this is a seminal work describing western development and thought which no student of history should leave unopened. An advantage of reading this book today instead of when it was originally released is the internet. If you lack truly comprehensive powers of recall regarding the art and architecture Spengler uses to analyze his subject cultures, then using the internet to pull up the various paintings, sculptures, and architectural examples is most helpful as an active part of reading this work; turning what could otherwise be a dry, boring read into something more alive that captures what the author is trying to convey. If possible, bring up the actual images of the art and architecture Spengler describes at the moment you're reading about it. This gave me a more graphic and focused perspective of the cultures he analyzes. Reading this book was like experiencing a kaleidoscope of mind candy.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2000
The Decline of the West is mainly known for Spengler's striking insights on diverse subjects that are everywhere in the book. It is also enlightening in it's overall metaphor of organic growth and decline of cultures and civilizations (what the book is mainly known for, but not its only virtue). Also he is very enlightening in his ability to describe universal type - within various subjects - and bring many things into perspective... If you already know basic, universal world history to any extent then Spengler's book - more so, I think, than other famous philosophies of history (Augustine's City of God, Hegel's History lectures, etc...) - can hit like a revelation. It's one of those books, though, that many people learn alot from but find it hard to recommend or - if they're famous or have reputations (academic, etc.) to consider - talk about publicly because people get such different things out of it. This is not an acecdote about liberal or conservative, but I remember reading once that Henry Kissinger gave an edition of Decline of the West to Richard Nixon as a gift. As I was saying, because the book has such large stereotypes attached to it neither of those two very public men would want to talk about the book publicly, but it is read - and is a must read to some degree - by most everybody who is really interested in getting an understanding of history...a subject very central to overall understanding of almost everything...
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 1999
History ebbs and flows. The illusion that we are somehow at the 'end of history' and that civil organization and values as they now stand are beyond history's broader and deeper currents might be the great popular Myopia of our time. Spengler in this book has applied his voluminous knowledge and interpretive skills to the rise and fall of civilizations. Does the 'West' conform to the definition of a civilization in the age of global communications and entertainment? If so, are its prospects different than those of its predecessors? Schools no longer prepare the mainstream student for learning and argument at this level. Spengler's thesis hinges on the leading intellectual & aesthetic edges of the last 1000 years of our culture as compared to those of civilizations of antiquity, notably the Greco Roman.
There are scholarly contrasts to Spengler's study. William McNeill's 'Rise of the West' provides a direct challenge to many of its conclusions. Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' or Werner Jaeger's 'Paedeia' (on Greek classical culture) might be good comparative reference books, but these have now been relegated in public familiarity to dusty and esoteric academic departments. Spengler's work, however, falls squarely and uniquely into the realm of a great work of the Deist tradition of Western social philosophy, from which its reputation for skepticism comes. Its apparent mysticism emanates from the deep investigation into the intellectual attitude of the Western mind. There are, of course, other traditions in the 'Western' mix which have broad and predictive implications. This opus should not be misconstrued of as a work of pessimism. Constructive action and faith are, in fact, its basis for the prospect of vigorous and sustained regeneration of the human cause.
This is an exacting study. It requires a critical attitude to penetrate and to see that it has a fundamentally human and hopeful (and debatable) message. Decline of the West does in fact provide drama, grandeur, context and understanding to the sweep of history. It is accessible, though, to the determined general reader and constitutes a significant contribution to 20th Century thought. Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2001
Oswald Spengler was a schoolteacher of immense intellect. The book is filled with observations and insights into virtually every known civilization in the sweep of human history. The study and reflection behind the work no doubt contributed to the magisterial tone, confident in the self-evident truths that it conveys.
Spengler codifies the progress and decline of civilizations in search of archtypes and characteristic forms of expression. His classification of civilizational forms, i.e., Magian, Faustian, etc., then is used to show how cultures within each type, at differing stages of development, react to and upon each other.
His discussion of Magian civilization is perhaps the most compelling. He traces its origin to Zoroaster and the apoclyptic Hebrew prophets of the early First Millenium, B.C. The concepts common to all forms of Magian life are discussed: the architectural expression of worship as a "world-cave," seen in the use of the dome and the contrast of light and shadow, illustrate the vivifying force of the battle between Dark and Light, and the coming firey end of the world. This discussion is all the more compelling with the rise of militant Islam, dormant and in retreat before secular modernism when Spengler wrote.
Prophetic statements are rarer than prophetic insights, in that Spengler makes few outright predictions, instead giving trend analysis. The reader may keep turning pages, looking in vain for the elusive prediction of our future, the feeling of which mounts with each vingette illustrating the Law of Civilization and Decay (to borrow Charles Adams' title). Of the few that he finds, one is that, as the first millenium of the Christian era belonged to Peterine cultire ("Faustian" civilization rising) and the second to Pauline/Protestant civilization, the next millenium would bring a flourishing of Johnnine faith, in the Eastern mode.
While Adams and Adam Ferguson said much of this before, this is the better work. If Spengler is right, capital replaces faith, and Caesar follows capital. If the Age of Capital is closing, will the dominant type of the Western future be Caesar?
-Lloyd A. Conway
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2008
I had the misfortune to wait and waste 40$ on this book.Abridgments like translations can be very destructive.
Helps,is either a jealous or mischievous pendent (to protect us from dangerous thoughts ).I was alerted immediately on reading the introduction,where he makes derogatory comments about the author.I had already read bits from a library copy and wanted more.I got less.
This abridgment deadens Spengler's soaring insights (be they wright or wrong--and he's not a racist, he's a Europhile) by deleting Spengler's encyclopedic knowledge and examples of the world which Spengler displays by myriad multivariate contrasts and juxtapositions of art, architecture ,religion , politics ,philosophy , and the cultures that produce them. This makes one think and reflect very deeply about arts ,philosophy, religion customs and there origins.Spengler roots out incredibly subtle connections which forces you to consider is there a conscious stream of the spirit of a people that produce these works.This is of course just what multicultural communists don't want young people to go thinking about , which I suspect is the motive for this abridged version.Want to eat baby food read this , Want a banquet of delights , read Atkinson's translation.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Spengler's classic tome about the fate of civilizations was very influential and widely read in his day, and his influence is still being felt today. His ideas are probably the best known in this area, but it's interesting to contrast and compare Spengler's idea with those of two other historians who have had similarly deterministic ideas about the rise and fall of civilizations.

Toynbee came up with the idea of "challenge and response." A civilization is confronted with certain challenges and problems during its development. If it succeeds in surmounting them, it grows and becomes more powerful; if it fails, as it must eventually at some point, it's culture declines and ultimately dies off.

Similarly, John Suart Mill came up with the idea of positive and negative periods in history. It's been 20 years since I read Mill, but the quote where he aptly describes his idea went something like the following. I think I have it more or less correct:

"During the positive period, mankind adopts with firm conviction some positive creed, claiming justification for all its actions proceeding from it, and possessing more or less of the truth and adaptation to the needs of humanity; when a period follows of negation and dissolution, wherein mankind loses all its old beliefs, of a general or authoritative character, except the belief that the old ones are false."

What I find most interesting about Spenger's book, and about Toynbee's and Mill's theories, is the idea that there must ultimately be some sort of theoretical history that can explain the broad sweep of entire civilizations, that their waning and waxing can be attributed to some regular, lawful process.

I am sceptical that this is the case, at least in so far as a general, all-inclusive explanation can be found, although I think there is a good deal of truth in the ideas of all three men. From my reading of history, the conditions and circumstances of each civilization and what ultimately led to its rise and fall, seem special or unique to that particular historical context, and probably wouldn't have worked out the same at a different time and place.

Of course, all civilizations must maintain a strong military and economy, otherwise they are simply overrun by their enemies. Providing that, however, it seems to me that it comes down to the fact that there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come. Great societies--such as those of ancient Egypt, Golden-Age Athens, Early Renaissance Italy, or modern America, are built because people are galvanized by the ideas they embody and by the opportunities they create. The energy, dynamism, and enthusiasm this creates is what makes their rise to power possible and is what makes them great. When this is no longer the case, the formerly great society goes into decline.

Of course, such societies are often conquered from without at some point, but they were probably already declining internally for a some time before that happened--as when Rome was sacked twice during the 4th century AD--first by the Ostrogoths and then by the Visogoths.

Anyway, just my two cents--and perhaps not so different from what the three above writers themselves have had to say about it.
1515 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2001
"Only the sick man feels his limbs. When men construct an unmetaphysical religion in opposition to cults and dogmas; when a "natural law " is set up against historical law; when, in art, styles are invented in place of the style that can no longer be borne or mastered; when men conceive of the State as an "order of society" which not only can be but must be altered - then it is evident that something has definitely broken down. The Cosmopolis itself, the supreme Inorganic, is there, settled in the midst of the Culture-landscape, whose men it is uprooting, drawing into itself and using up."
The above is a valuable passage from Spengler's book, very illustrative of his main thesis- which is not only that the world in which we exist today is barren of all impressive spiritual form and style, but must remain so.
Spengler's historical world-view is radically and quite fundamentally of a different stamp from almost any other. What sets him apart is the extraordinary impartialness of his style. Socio-political theorists are, almost without exception, liable to force entire millenia into the limited horizons of their own subjective criteria. They simply will not acknowledge that what is true for them is false or meaningless to the people of a different Culture or different age. Spengler's philosophy breaks us free from this myopic world-view.
Readers and critics make more of his comparative study of Culture-cycles than they should. One needn't accept the full accuracy of the comparisons drawn between foreign cultures in order to gain a great deal of wisdom from this book. The idea that our own future can be mapped out through the comparative study of previous Cultures is a theory I'm inclined to reject, given the extreme uniqueness of the Western civilization that currently encompasses the whole planet, one which experiences physical, technological, sociopolitical, and economic conditions that are so unlike any that have come before that they can quite justifiably be called "unprecedented".
Nonetheless, Spengler's basic point- that western Culture attained its highest cultural glories three centuries ago, and has been plummeting into a chaotic, irreligious stew of materialistic formlessness ever since, remains indisputably true.
Spengler liberates one's historical perspective on two levels. He teaches the modern reader that the arbitrary system of cause-and-effect history, a system tacitly taken for granted by most, is neither true nor incorrect- it is simply SHALLOW, because it ignores the thread of spiritual continuity that underlies the organic working-out of a Culture. Events, which are causal only insofar as they exist in the phyical world, derive their significance in the historical world from this spiritual necessity and continuity. He also liberates us from the idea of "human destiny" or "human history". He proves that, regardless of whatever arbitrary borrowings the West may have made from foreign Cultures (such as the Arabic numeral system, for instance), the vast world-culture that we know today is an entirely Western development. Human history has nothing to with it; the world of spaceships, cell-phones, the Internet, and mass-production is simply a extensive projection, by the West in its "Civilization" phase, of the same spiritual motif that previously was realized inwardly during the Culture centuries of the West: a dynamic, space-defying tendency that ranges beyond the near-and-present and constantly has an eye to the future. But what we term "progress" is really only a quite vulgar materialization of something that the people of Gothic times understood in religious terms.
Spengler points out the "uncomprehending hostility to all the traditions representative of the Culture (nobility, church, privileges, dynasties, convention in art and limits of knowledge in science)" as indicative of the absurd arrogance of the shallow Civilization phase of the Culture that has lost all connection to the blood, to tradition, and to the spirit. The shortsightedness with which we deem the past of our own Culture a mere causal development leading up from the so-called "Dark Ages" to the vast technological corpus of our times, prevents us from understanding the beauty and significance of those Culture-forms that the man of, say, the 15th century took for granted as something self-evident. We "fashion arbitrary forms into which the superficies of history can to be forced but which are entirely alien to its inner content."
another passage:
"Culture and Civilization - the living body of a soul and the mummy of it. For Western existence the distinction lies at about the year 1800 - on the one side of that frontier life in fullness and sureness of itself, formed by growth from within, in one great uninterrupted evolution from Gothic childhood to Goethe and Napoleon, and on the other the autumnal, artificial, rootless life of our great cities, under forms fashioned by the intellect. Culture-man lives inwards, Civilization-man outwards in space and amongst bodies and "facts." That which the one feels as Destiny the other understands as a linkage of causes and effects, and thenceforward he is a materialist."
Spengler doesn't postulate an alternative ideal to replace the shallow, spiritually bankrupt reality that immerses us. He only presents, with eagle-like sharpness of vision, a scheme of history that cannot be avoided because the inner necessities of cultural evolution have ordained that it will be so. Whether the reader accepts this view- mistakenly called by many critics "fatalistic" or "pessimistic"- is their own prerogative. However, I believe that the educated, intuitive, and non-partial reader who absorbs in depth as much of this book as possible, will be convinced, as I am, of the core truth of Spengler's argument.
77 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2005
The theory of Spengler is as follows: Historical comparison of cultural formation, of governments, of civilizations, of art, architecture and music, of mathematics, science, philosophy, revolutions and control, of formations, destructions and deteriorations of societies and cultures; are thus interpreted to have a similarity with biological structure. Just as a sentient being is born, forms, grows, molds, progresses, digresses, deteriorates, ages, decays and dies, so it is with cultures and civilizations. In this case, a culture in its childlike creative ability solidifies into non-creative matter, stagnant, authoritarian and brittle and then dies.

"The Decline of the West" is a major opus, indeed a masterwork, with a dense text full of mew terminology and new concepts. The fact that Dr.Spengler discovered a true existence of a living form in the history- and life-cycles of civilizations has been deliberately ignored by critics. Dr.Spengler in his work definitely belongs to the realm of the modern "TABOO," and precisely uncovers all the important facts and ideas, that our "accepted" intellectuals of the day DARE NOT touch upon, and prefer to avoid and misinterpret and misrepresent Dr.Spengler's thought and observations - for these are all too unnerving to them and too uncomfotably revealing about the character and direction of the times we live in. Unfortunately, and despite the book's popularity, the Decline of the West has made little impact on academic thought, which remains, at root, as shallow as it was a century ago.

One example, which I think has clearly been borne out by current events: in the aftermath of WWI, where armies with troops numbering in the millions were often too small, Spengler predicted that armies of our time would number in the hundreds of thousands, and that these small, war-keen armies were meant to be used. Everything that is happening in the world today, from American response to 9/11, to pornography, to the professionalization of sports, to families not eating dinner together, is elucidated by Spengler's theory. He stated that not only was the world in which he exist barren of all impressive spiritual form and style and predicted that it must and would remain so and it has. Spengler's basic point - that western Culture attained its highest cultural glories three centuries ago, and has been plummeting into a chaotic, irreligious stew of materialistic formlessness ever since, remains indisputably true. People living in the West, and particularly America, would do well to read this moving piece of literature. It might help dispell once and for all the casual attitude which assumes that "this" is infinite.

The best analogy is a scene from The Matrix: Morpheus offers Neo two pills. The red pill will reveal the world as it truly is, which very few people actually see. The blue pill will take Neo back where he was, still fooled by the Matrix, oblivious to reality. The Decline of the West is the red pill.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
113 of 138 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 25, 2003
Much has been written about whether Spengler was a good man or a bad man, whether his is a good philosophy or a bad philosophy, all that matters is that his theory of world history is correct. Spengler does not identify a problem and then set forth what people must do to avoid the problem. In fact, the whole point of his theory is that Cultures are born, flourish and die in a predictable pattern. There is no more anything we can do to avoid the 'problem' than there is to increase a man's lifespan to 200 years.
One example, which I think has clearly been borne out by current events: in the aftermath of WWI, where armies with troops numbering in the millions were often too small, Spengler predicted that armies of our time would number in the hundreds of thousands, and that these small, war-keen armies were meant to be used. Everything that is happening in the world today, from American response to 9/11, to pornography, to the professionalization of sports, to families not eating dinner together, is elucidated by Spengler's theory.
If you want to understand the present, more importantly, if you want to understand the terrible internal problems the US will encounter in the next ten years, then you must understand the Decline of the West. It is a dense, serious, and demanding book. It is not a fun read, but it is necessary.
The best analogy is a scene from The Matrix: Morpheus offers Neo two pills. The red pill will reveal the world as it truly is, which very few people actually see. The blue pill will take Neo back where he was, still fooled by the Matrix, oblivious to reality. The Decline of the West is the red pill.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
A Study of History, Vol. 1: Abridgement of Volumes I-VI
A Study of History, Vol. 1: Abridgement of Volumes I-VI by Arnold Joseph Toynbee (Paperback - December 10, 1987)
$22.22

A Study of History, Vol. 2: Abridgement of Volumes VII-X
A Study of History, Vol. 2: Abridgement of Volumes VII-X by Arnold J. Toynbee (Paperback - December 10, 1987)
$22.59

 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.