Decline of the West

David Cowles

Jun 7, 2021

As a teenager, I became aware of a book by Oswald Spengler: The Decline of the West, written c. 1920. Like any intellectually inclined adolescent of the ‘60s, I was drawn to the title. But throughout high school and college I was warned off of Spengler by teachers, mentors, etc.: “He’s a racist, he’s a Nazi, etc.” All false claims. In fact, his books were banned by the Nazis.

As a teenager, I became aware of a book by Oswald Spengler: The Decline of the West, written c. 1920. Like any intellectually inclined adolescent of the ‘60s, I was drawn to the title. But throughout high school and college I was warned off of Spengler by teachers, mentors, etc.: “He’s a racist, he’s a Nazi, etc.” All false claims. In fact, his books were banned by the Nazis. He does talk a lot about “race” in ways that would make us all uncomfortable today, but he defines “race” in a very different way than we do. Once you get what he’s talking about, there’s nothing offensive implied; on the contrary, he denounced Hitler’s regime precisely because of its anti-Semitism.


Flip side, his 1,000 page, two volume work offers new ideas about the intellectual history of the West on almost every page! Spengler predicts the collapse of Western civilization c. 2200. Like a modern Book of Revelation, he offers “signs” that the end time is near: the cities will depopulate (this has been going on since 1945), people will stop reading books (hello!), etc.


I won’t lie. It’s not an easy read. I can only do about 10 pages a night. But it’s unbelievably rewarding if you can get through it. Spoiler alert: he has no use for most western philosophers, starting with Plato right up through Kant. He especially hates Euclid because he gave us a linear, static model of reality. On the other hand, he loves Dostoevsky and tolerates Leibniz. Give it a try.

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