The Decline of the West

by Oswald Spongier. Volume H. Perspectives of World History. Translated by diaries Francis Atkinson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1928. 4to. xi+507+xxxii pp. $7.50.
WHEREAS Spengler’s first volume included an introductory statement of doctrine substantiated by a series of essays in mathematical, artistic, scientific, religious, and sociological fields, his second and concluding tome is chiefly devoted to world history. This is fitting and proper, for he is endeavoring to establish a morphology of history, a theory that Culture congeals into Civilizallou and culminates in meaningless atrophy, the entire process consuming about one thousand years. What brings forth a ‘Higher Culture' Spongier himself cannot say. but states that ‘the fact that we have before us eight such cultures, all of the same build, the same development, and the same duration, justifies us in looking at limit comparatirely.
I’he second volume, in which these words appear, opens with a comparison between plant and animal life, and the distinction here made between fixed macrocosm and freely moving microcosm is extended into a bewildering number of fields. As plants are to animals, so is feeling to intelligence, so woman to man, time to space, politics to religion, race to language, destiny to causality. )nee t hese distinctions arc established we move on to the group of the Higher Cultures and the emergence of ‘meaningful history, A comparison betw een Homan, Arabic, and modern law illustrates some of the peculiarities of these Higher Cultures. Next comes a discussion of city life in which it, is asserted that world history is urban history and that the peasant type remains changeless while city dwellers decay into the ‘fellaheen peoples of late Roman and Egyptian times.
The extensive survey of Arabic culture which follows is an attempt to coordinate and explain the first thousand years of the Christian era* Christ is depicted as the great religious flowering of the ‘Magkm Soul,’ and his meeting with Pilate is ingeniously interpreted as Ihe country man facing the city man, culture contemplating civilization. Mohammed is then dubbed the Cromwell of Arabia, and the whole movement of Islam is linked with primitive Christianity and Mazdaism, just as Protestantism can be linked with the religion of the Middle Ages. The concluding chapters dealing with the State draw upon European history and show how economic activity has temporarily displaced political activity. We are now, it seems, on the road from Napoleonism to Cæsarism ‘money is celebrating its, la A victories and the Cicsarisra that to succeed it approaches with quiet, firm step.' Modern Faust-like man. impelled toward infinite horizons, has developed the machine to an extent undreamed of by men of any other Culture, but in attempting to sol himself above the gods lie has made himself the slave of his own creation.
To assign any absolute value to such a theory is impossible; one can only indicate some of its outstanding qualities. Essentially The Decline of the H'est represents a deep reaction against everything that we have come to associate with the name of harleSs Darwin. It sets Destiny above Evolution and pours contempt upon the ‘frogperspective’ of such men as Marx. Shaw, and Ibsen. Spengler’s great skill resides in his ability to give ideas the breath of life, and his translator makes ns feel this enthusiasm as if at first hand.