After decades of relative neglect, Oswald Spengler—author of The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes), published in two parts in 1918 and 1922—is now, once again, being considered as one of the undisputable key thinkers of the 20th century, as a philosopher whose predictions about the future evolution of the Western world seem to fulfil themselves at a surprising speed.
It is because of this that in 2017, a group of motivated scholars decided that the time was ripe to create an organizational structure capable of fostering and coordinating modern research on Oswald Spengler. They went on to found the “Oswald Spengler Society for the Study of Humanity and World History”.
Spengler (1980-1936) achieved immediate international celebrity when he tried to show in his monumental historical study that all human civilizations live through similar phases of evolution, roughly equivalent to the different ages of a biological entity. Be it ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, the Classical World, the Arab Levant, Mexico, or the West—Spengler considered them all social bodies animated by wholly different outlooks on existence but progressing on parallel paths, evolving from early empires through feudal communities to the cultural height of classical absolutism and rationalism, before transforming into technological capitalist societies and, finally, fossilizing into authoritarian super-states.
Hence, following Spengler’s line of reasoning, we are bound to witness, during the 20th and 21st centuries, the final moments of the history of the West before its lapses from plutocracy to authoritarianism—and thus into a post-historic state of political stagnation and cultural sterility (comparable to the ancient Chinese, Ramesside, or Roman Empires).
Spengler, after becoming a persona non grata under Germany’s National Socialist regime (because of his opposition to Hitler’s racial doctrine), and shunned during the entire Cold War period (because of his cultural pessimism), it is only very recently that we have witnessed something of a ‘renaissance’ of interest in Oswald Spengler, who was more prescient than many realize. Already 100 years ago, he predicted globalization, dwindling populations and alarming demographic trends, the rise of technocracy, asymmetrical wars, the decline of religion, a culture of ‘bread and circuses’, the domination of finance capitalism, populism, the threat of civil war, and many other trends that today are commonplace.
It is for these reasons that the Spengler Society thought it was high time to put research on the life, work, and predictions of Oswald Spengler on a new footing—and to thus establish a society dedicated to the comparative study of cultures and civilizations, including pre-history, the evolution of humanity as a whole, and the consideration of extrapolations (from current trends) regarding the possible future of man.
Though the Society draws inspiration from the works and ideas of Oswald Spengler, it aims at applying state-of-the-art multidisciplinary approaches, including evolutionary theory, sociobiology, philosophy, psychology, jurisprudence, and archeology. At the Society’s meetings, both generalists and specialists are welcome to engage with each other in constructive dialogue on the evolution of societies from earliest time throughout human history in order to gain insights into the functioning—and fate—of present-day societies.
In order to fulfil this aim, the Spengler Society—directed by Professors David Engels (President), Gerd Morgenthaler (Secretary), and Max Otte (Treasurer), and under the patronage of Professors Alexander Demandt and Robert Merry (its two honorary Presidents)–plans to regularly organize scholarly conferences, publish their proceedings, edit an annual journal, and also award, on a regular basis, an ‘Oswald Spengler Prize’.
This past year, the first winner of the Spengler Prize was France’s Michel Houellebecq, an author who has given expression like no one else to the deep feeling of loss and frustration that is at the heart of The Decline of the West—and who has sounded the alarm of the potential take-over of what remains of Europe by Islam.
Thus, on 19 October 2018, at the closing of an international conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Decline of the West, the Spengler Society had the occasion of welcoming the world-famous French novelist at Hotel Stanhope in Brussels in order to award him with the “Oswald Spengler Prize”—and to listening to his acceptance speech (which has just been published in the publication series edited by the Spengler Society).
It was the first time that Houellebecq expressed his views on the work of Oswald Spengler, in particular, and on history, in general. He explained not only his fundamental agreement with Spengler’s premonitions but also, drawing on Auguste Comte and Arthur Schopenhauer, he sketched his own position on the importance of religion and demographics.
In contrast to Spengler, however, Houellebecq seemed not to consider the ‘decline of the West’ as an irreversible process but rather a form of intentional ‘suicide’ for which the responsibility lies mainly with the European Union—and its tendency to ‘dissolve’ the classical conception of the nation-state. Hence, once the EU’s dominant supranationalist ideology is removed, Houellebecq did not seem to exclude the possibility of a revival of the West—and, referring to the astonishing revival of Islam in the 20th century and to the surprising demographic surge in times of crisis, closed his acceptance speech on the somewhat optimistic note that history is never totally ‘predetermined’.
Given the recent publication of Houellebecq’s seventh novel, Sérotonine—a highly political description of Emmanuel Macron’s ‘New France’ and the revolt of the ‘yellow vests’—one may be curious how, in practice, such a resurgence of Europe might look like in practice.Though it may not be in the spirit of Spengler, we shall remain hopeful.
For more information on the activities of the Oswald Spengler Society, the awarding of its next Spengler Prize, and information on how to become member, please visit the Spengler Society at www.oswaldspenglersociety.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.