- Series: Oxford Paperbacks
- Paperback: 492 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 14, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195066340
- ISBN-13: 978-0195066340
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.1 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Decline of the West (Oxford Paperbacks) 1st Edition
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"This is a splendid edition. The introductory material is pointed and intriguing. The editing is superb. This volume is the best, and realistically, the only way to introduce Spengler to undergraduates."--Daniel P. Murphy, Hanover College
"There is nothing in our contemporary literature quite like the xperience of reading Oswald Spengler's classic The Decline of the West....There is no matching his throwaway erudition, the sheer poetry of his symbols and images and the vaulting majesty of his thought....Especially welcome for the brief but brilliantly incisive preface by America's best Spengler scholar, H. Stuart Hughes."--The Washington Times
"An abridged edition of Spengler's classic is long overdue. it is one of the great masterpieces of German historical prose, and the translation conveys the beauty and eloquence of the original language. its importance to today's student should be immediately grasped by anyone who appreciates the problem of decline and its relevance for contemporary American (and Western) society."--William Falcetano, Merrimack College
"Often damned but still cited (the very title can turn a whole evening into a disputation), it is still a provocative and often dazzling book....An exciting excursion through history."--Time
"Apocalyptic in tone, it is a massive, somber interpretation of the cyclical rise and fall of civilizations, much in the spirit and tradition of historical analysis displayed by another twentieth-century prophet, Arnold J. Toynbee....The contemporary reader will find much that is stimulating in Spengler's criticism of our age."--San Francisco Chronicle
"What [Spengler] wrote was an epic poem....The lesson to be learned from him is that writers too can be seismographs; the trembling of Spengler's themes signaled the coming of the Nazi earthquake."--New Statesman
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
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Top customer reviews
Spengler’s unconventional and creative technique of using imagination and intuition to divine the probable future by way of “physiognomic meaning” and “morphological” analysis rather than the more accepted “systematic” approach of compiling facts and dates was met with scathing criticism by much of the academic world. Nevertheless, Spengler’s difficult book became a sensation in Germany and quickly sold 90,000 copies, much to the chagrin of the experts. Throughout the book Spengler is attempting to write a “philosophy of history” as opposed to a mere recounting of the past devoid of intrinsic order or inner necessity. Instead, Spengler was seeing each fact in the historical picture according to its symbolic context. He wanted to set free their shapes, hidden deep beneath the surface of a true “history of human progress.” Yet there was no such thing as progress (in the evolutionary sense) according to Spengler. The entire book was a protest against Darwinism and its systematic science based upon causality. Instead, he regarded a “culture” as an organism and world history as its biography. The best metaphor for his “morphological” approach was the four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. The instinctive genius of a youthful, even barbaric culture in the springtime of its development would enable it to flourish. As it matured it would exult in all the potentialities of its creativity, reaching heights never before attempted. Great architecture, advanced mathematics, artistic innovations, technological ingenuity, statecraft, warfare, etc. would reach full flower well into its summer. Then, as the inner form world and imagination of such a culture began to lose its force it would enter an urban and worldly “late” (autumnal) period of rationalism and free itself from subservience to religion and dare to make that religion the object of epistemological criticism, thus opening the door to nihilism. Finally, it would go into its winter season or “Civilization” phase and begin its slow and inevitable decline. The West was already entering its Civilization phase by 1918 according to Spengler. It would not be a sudden collapse, but a gradual setting of the sun, a time of lengthening shadows, i.e., a “Twilight of the Gods.”
The most arresting thematic metaphors in Spengler’s imaginings were the three main cultures of Western Civilization, namely the Apollonian, Magian, and Faustian. Apollonian culture was classical civilization, i.e., the Greeks, the Romans, and the Hellenistic pagan culture of the ancients. Magian-Arabian culture encompassed Judaism, primitive Christianity, Mazdeism, Nestorians, Manicheans, Monophysites, and Islam. It was an eschatological and apocalyptic culture. It saw the world as Cavern, and our time on earth as limited. Submission to God was its primary ethos, but there was also the possibility of salvation, and of a coming Savior. By contrast, Apollonian culture did not see the past or even the present as being that different from the future. History as some linear narrative from which lessons could be learned was alien to the Apollonian mind. Instead, myth contained the essential, unchanging wisdom of existence. Character was fate. Pride came before the fall. The gods were capricious. But Faustian culture – which began around 1000 A.D. wished to extend its will into infinite space. It had built the Gothic cathedrals to realize this inward, willful striving for extension into the illimitable heavens, to flood the soul with light. Descartes, Leibnitz, Euler, Gauss, Newton, and Riemann, had pushed western mathematics to new heights. European artists had learned to use light and shadow, the color wheel, and the laws of perspective and vanishing points to create paintings that appeared three dimensional. The music of the Baroque and the art of the fugue had expressed the Faustian notion of limitless space. All this and much more are discussed in exhaustive detail throughout the book.
This abridged version will give the reader a healthy overview of Spengler’s book. But I recommend the full, unabridged version for anyone who has the time and inclination to read it at length. Even though there are numerous arguments for and against Spengler’s unorthodox approach, his erudition in mathematics, the natural sciences, and classical literature is impressive. Yet his style is dreamlike and poetic (in the epic sense). This book is not for everyone, but if it speaks to you it will light your fire.
The Translation ~
Because Spengler authorized Charles Atkinson as his personal translator, there is no question as to his attention to style and detail. This translation is the only one worth reading and likely the only one you can find.
The Work Itself ~
An outstanding philosophical force. Hands down one of the most voracious arguments in all of modern philosophy. Readers of Nietzsche, Goethe, and Heidegger will not be disappointed. While there are very few current works that stand up to the challenges presented in The Decline of the West, I would also recommend Derrick Jensen's Endgame http://www.amazon.com/Endgame-Vol-Problem-Civilization-ebook/dp/B001D79IC0/
The Formatting ~
I was particularly impressed with the detailed formatting done to this edition of the book. So often there are issues like unnecessary page breaks and missing diagrams, but this edition is superb. It appears to include all of the Greek, linked footnotes, a full table of contents, and even some additional images of referenced sculptures and works of art.
Overall a fantastic view of civilization that can not be underestimated or ignored. I sincerely hope more readers will take the time to read such a profound book.
Most recent customer reviews
Anyone who reviews this thing favorably is doing so based on the virtues of the original book, not the document...Read more