Posts Tagged ‘Oswald Spengler’

Bad Company

In 1924, the Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža was travelling on a night train from Riga to Moscow, and fell into conversation with a Lithuanian schoolteacher of German heritage who was reading Oswald Spengler’s Prussianism and Socialism. She had, she said, become interested in him when he held a lecture in Riga the previous year at the invitation of the Courlandic German Bund.

“But everyone was disappointed with the gentleman. He is a boring, elderly professor with illusions of grandeur, who earned a pretty fee with his lecture. The Courlandic German Bund had to pay for his trip in a sleeping car, first class, all the way from Munich to Riga and back, and on top of that even the door receipts, and then he came, read from his papers for half an hour, and at the banquet did not speak a single word with anyone the whole evening. A disagreeable, opinionated fool!”


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If ever there was a figure to be taken seriously but not literally, it’s Oswald Spengler. The catty remark of A.L. Rowse, that “because the Germans were defeated, Western civilisation is to be regarded as coming to an end”, is unfair but not completely untrue. There’s a lot more to Spengler’s ideas than that characterisation (not least because much of his framework of thought predated WWI), but they are pervaded with the masochistic joys of apocalyptic expectation, and a sense of superiority over everyone else who hasn’t yet realised that they’re living in decadent and pathetic times. Spengler represents a fascinating offshoot of C19 critiques of modernity, throwing biological analogies and the second law of thermodynamics into the mix as explanations and justifications of feelings of Weltschmerz and cultural malaise. (more…)

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