The Decline of the West

The Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler

Northrop Frye said he slept with this book under his pillow for years, and it’s not hard to see why. Spengler writes in the same great tradition of mythic or visionary history – a description of large historical patterns (Spengler’s “morphologies”) unconcerned with messy details – that Frye adopted for his own magisterial study of the historical modes of literature. The poetry I found to be lost in translation, and I didn’t buy the taxonomy of cultures at all, but as the last gasp of German idealism this is a book whose main thesis – that cultures exhaust themselves through an organic process of decay – still feels right. Certainly not the last word on civilization’s decline and fall, but an interesting point of departure for further speculation.