Spengler’s Logic of History

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Oswald Spengler tells us that he’s trying something new, a kind of historical study that he calls “predetermining history”: he’s going to use an historian’s methods in order to tell us something of what is going to happen. History is usually about the past, Spengler’s is also about the future.

Spengler asks “is there a logic of history”? A logic of history would be something “independent of the outward forms” underlying them: the things that we see happening in the world do not happen merely by random chance or even by cause and effect, but because of something larger, that determines the pattern of history as a whole.

There is a logic of history, says Spengler, although “logic” might seem a strange word for what he goes on to describe. He says that just as humans and animals are born, flourish, grow old, and die, so we can see the same pattern in human culture. The logic of history is the logic of the organism. The most basic rule is: nothing lives forever. And so cultures come and go, rise and fall.

Spengler is interested in Western culture, the “West European-American.” Not only is this the culture he belongs to, but it is also, he believes, the culture of the present day – of a hundred years ago, at the time of writing. For better or worse, Western culture dominates the world. And there are two more important facts about it: firstly, it has yet to reach its “fulfilment”; secondly, it is in decline.

In carrying out his predetermining history, Spengler will trace the path that is “still untravelled” by Western culture, that it must yet tread. We’ll soon learn what “fulfilment” means: the hardening of the once organic, flowing and growing characteristics of a culture, until they finally become ossified when the culture dies, to make room for new cultures to emerge. Spengler will take us into the future so that we can look back on the present with cold scientific eyes, and we will learn the meaning of Western culture as we examine the fossils that remain after its demise.

(Image is from Pixabay.)

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8 Responses to Spengler’s Logic of History

  1. Therese says:

    I can’t say I’m curious as to what the next culture that will dominate the world will be. Did he talk about this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leewatkins says:

      It’s a great question! But he’s quite cryptic about this, as far as I can tell. There is the quote “To Dostoyevsky’s Christianity will the next thousand years belong,” which you might find interesting. And a footnote to that describes the difference between the Western and the Russian conception of free will. So perhaps we should be looking to Russia for clues about the next stage of world history. But I think it’s really a mistake to take Spengler literally. I think he’s best read as an interesting and thought-provoking critic of Western culture, rather than taken seriously as a futurologist.

      Thanks for reading Therese! I hope this answers your question a bit. Perhaps I’ll write a post about this Russian footnote soon, it’s very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Therese says:

    I am curious as to what he thinks it will be. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jamienauthor says:

    I’d be surprised if anything Russian is the next culture to dominate. More likely it’ll be Chinese or Muslim?

    Like

    • leewatkins says:

      Thanks for reading! Why do you think that?

      Like

      • jamienauthor says:

        Russia is largely a spent force. It’s economy is weak. China is the up and coming country and its influence will continue to spread worldwide. With the dissipation of large numbers of Muslim peoples from the Near East throughout the Western World and beyond, their culture and religion will flourish. It may take the Muslim world a hundred years to be the dominate culture; China much sooner. (I think I drank too much coffee tonight…)

        Like

      • leewatkins says:

        Coffee is good 🙂

        It sounds like you’re talking more about political influence than about culture. Spengler isn’t talking about what’s going to happen in the next ten years, or one hundred years. He’s talking in terms of millennia. The present day signs of the next culture to grow and flourish will be small and subtle, and to be found in things such as a country’s literature. It’s not really a question of where the balance of power lies at the moment.

        At least, that’s how I would understand Spengler on this point. I find him very difficult and cryptic, but endlessly inspiring.

        Liked by 1 person

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