Oswald Spengler

Transaction Publishers, 1 janv. 1991 - 192 pages

Since its publication in 1918, Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West has been the object of academic controversy and opprobrium. In their efforts to dispose of it, scholars have resorted to a variety of tactics: bitter invective, icy scorn, urbane mockery, or simply pretending that the book is not there. Yet generations of readers have refused to be warned off, finding in Spengler a prophetic voice and a source of profound intellectual excitement. H. Stuart Hughes's Oswald Spengler offers a judicious and objective reading of Spengler's works that admirably fills the gap between hypercritical invective and naïve enthusiasm. This pioneering volume makes clear why Spengler's pessimistic reading of the fate of European civilization continues to resonate with contemporary anxieties.

Despite the author's self-imposed intellectual and social isolation, Spengler's work was as Hughes demonstrates, a part of the enormous effort of intellectual reevaluation that has characterized the early twentieth century. Viewing Spengler in the broadest possible perspective, the author places his thought in its cultural relationship to that of such predecessors as Giambattista Vico, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Nikolai Danilevsky and contemporaries including Benedetto Croce, Henri Bergson, and Vilfredo Pareto. A chapter of Hughes's book is devoted to Spengler's influence on later cyclical thinkers such as Arnold Toynbee and Pitirim Sorokin. Another chapter clarifies the essentially antagonistic relationship between his thought and Nazi ideology.

Throughout, Hughes is carefully attuned to the complex and often bewildering shifts of Spengler's ideas and manner, providing a unified picture of the sober historian; the lofty seer; the cool, detached observer; and the impassioned participant. In his introduction to this new edition, Hughes comments on the timeliness of Spengler's message with respect to technology and environmental issues and draws some unexpected and fascinating parallels between Spengler's thought and that of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Oswald Spengler offers an illuminating view of the achievements and limitations of one of the most influential and representative figures of the twentieth century. It will be of concern to intellectual historians, philosophers, political scientists, and sociologists.

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Table des matières

A Portent
The Intellectual Temper
The Historians and the World Outlook
Sources and Influences
The Morphology of Culture
From Germany to
The Political Phase
chapter vin Spengler and National Socialism
The New Spenglerians
Spengler and His Detractors
Droits d'auteur

Autres éditions - Tout afficher

Expressions et termes fréquents

Fréquemment cités

Page 157 - The fallacy common to these views is the confusion between a natural process, in which the past dies in being replaced by the present, and an historical process, in which the past, so far as it is historically known, survives in the present.
Page 88 - And I can only hope that men of the new generation may be moved by this book to devote themselves to technics instead of lyrics, the sea instead of the paint-brush, and politics instead of epistemology. Better they could not do.
Page 165 - The Decline of the West offers the nearest thing we have to a key to our times. It formulates more comprehensively than any other single book the modern malaise that so many feel and so few can express.
Page 17 - It is possible that a few half endurable decades may still be granted to us, a sort of Roman imperial time. I am of the opinion that democrats and proletarians must submit to an increasingly harsh despotism, even if they make the wildest efforts, for this fine century is designed for anything rather than true democracy.
Page 87 - Athens but in Caesar's Rome. Of great painting or great music there can no longer be, for Western people, any question. Their architectural possibilities have been exhausted these hundred years. Only extensive possibilities are left to them. Yet, for a sound and vigorous generation that is filled with unlimited hopes, I fail to see that it is any disadvantage to discover betimes that some of these hopes must come to nothing.
Page 8 - We men of the Western Culture are, with our historical sense, an exception and not a rule. World-history is our world picture and not all mankind's. Indian and Classical man formed no image of a world in progress, and perhaps when in due course the civilization of the West is extinguished, there will never again be a Culture and a human type in which "world-history...
Page 18 - I shall think of this year's end the rest of my life . . . The two great civilized peoples of the present-day Continent have fallen to flaying themselves of their whole culture, and infinitely much of what delighted and interested man before July 1870 will no longer move him in 1871." "What is most serious, however, is not the present war, but the era of wars into which we have entered, and on this the new spirit must be founded. Oh, how much that has been dear to the cultured must be thrown overboard...
Page 75 - historical pseudomorphosis" I propose to designate those cases in which an older alien Culture lies so massively over the land that a young Culture born in this land, cannot get its breath and fails not only to achieve pure and specific expression-forms, but even to develop fully its own self-consciousness. All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old...
Page 66 - It is intuitive and depictive through and through, written in a language which seeks to present objects and relations illustratively instead of offering an army of ranked concepts. It addresses itself solely to readers who are capable of living themselves into the word-sounds and pictures as they read.
Page 158 - Some system of cycles there must always be for every historical student, as every man's shadow must fall somewhere on his own landscape; but as his shadow moves with every movement he makes, so his cyclical view of history will shift and dissolve, decompose and recompose itself anew, with every advance in the historical knowledge of the individual and the race.7 Thus the cyclical interpretation — whether Spengler's or any other writer's — is subject to constant change.

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