Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate, by H. Stuart Hughes
Oswald Spengler’s famous book The Decline of the West was first published in the summer of 1918. Huge in size, formless in presentation, choked with oracular generalities and portentous errors, it was at once and finally rejected by the learned world (except for a few parsons who hoped that its message of woe might pro-mote a stampede into religion). But among the unlearned, especially in Germany, where (as Mr. Hughes sagaciously observes) “a shorter, more lucid book would never have achieved the same reputation for profundity,” its success was immediate. It is a human trait to detect in one’s own misfortunes a crisis of the universe, and in 1918 it was consoling to Germans to learn that their defeat was part of a cosmic process, and that their triumphant enemies were in fact in no better case. Within eight years one hundred thousand copies of Spengler’s book had been sold; it was translated into English and French, Spanish and Italian, Russian and Arabic; then, in 1933, came the Nazis. For a while it seemed, as in retrospect it now seems, that Oswald Spengler was their philosopher.
About the Author