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The Decline of the West (Oxford Paperbacks) 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195066340
ISBN-10: 0195066340
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Editorial Reviews


"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

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Chakwin on August 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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...
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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