The Longue Duree of Spengler's Thesis of 'The Decline of the West'

Rojek, C. (2017). The Longue Duree of Spengler's Thesis of 'The Decline of the West'. European Journal of Social Theory,

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Abstract

Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West was a major publishing success Weimar Germany. The study presents the end of Western civilization as an inevitable process of birth, maturity and death.

Civilization is conceived as an inflexible ‘morphology’. Spengler’s thinking was influenced by a profound distaste with the optimism of the Belle Epoque. He saw this optimism as sheer complacency. The argument had a good deal of attraction to readers, especially German readers, who were lashed to what Keynes called, the ‘Carthaginian Peace’, of the Versailles Treaty (1919). Adorno, and other critics, rejected the thesis for its ‘monstrous’, ‘mechanical’, reductive view of social development. It seemed to give no place for human insight or self determination. Interestingly, despite Adorno’s rejection, he returned to the thesis on a number of occasions in later life. For Adorno, certain aspects of Spengler’s insights into the failing nature of Western kultur retained traction. This paper reassesses the value of Spengler’s thesis as a contribution to contemporary social theory. It does so at an historical juncture in which the ‘New Caesarism’ that Spengler predicted must, inevitably emerge from the failure of Plebiscitary Parliamentary Democracy to perpetually deliver what it perpetually promises. What does Spengler have to teach us about Trump, Putin, May, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders or Nikolaos Michaloilakos today? Weighed in the balance, what does The Decline of the West mean today?

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Rojek, C. The Longue Duree of Spengler's Thesis of 'The Decline of the West'. European Journal of Social Theory. Copyright © 2017, the authors. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.
Divisions: School of Arts > Department of Journalism
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/18408

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