"Spengler Abridgement Helpful to Students",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star,
August 2, 1962,
of a book:
THE DECLINE OF THE WEST,
by Oswald Spengler, abridged by Helmut Werner and Arthur Helps.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962
"Spengler Abridgement Helpful to Students"
THE DECLINE OF THE WEST.
By Oswald Spengler, abridged by Helmut Werner and Arthur Helps.
(Alfred A. Knopf; $6.95.)
The two-volume German edition of this world-famous book
appeared 1918-1922 and the English version, from Knopf, in 1926-28. It
was a sensation among the intelligentsia from its first appearance and,
after thirty years, still sells, in the two-volume edition, thousands of
copies a year. Now, a generation later, it is abridged for the less
In this case, as in Somervell’s two-volume abridgment of Toynbee's
nine volumes on this same subject, a long-winded or obscure author (as
both these writers are) is frequently improved by abridgment.
This is notably true in the present case, where the text as printed
is Spengler's, but repetitive and irrelevant sections have been excised.
These are bridged, where necessary, by explanatory passages written by
Werner and distinguished from the original by appearing in italics
printed within brackets. The result is a volume of considerable value,
not perhaps to the student of Spengler but to the student of the
intellectual outlook of the early twentieth century, especially in
As an explanation of how societies evolve and perish Spengler's
work has little merit. It is too subjective, lopsided, and personal. But
as an example of the thinking which appears in a mature civilization in
crisis, it is of great value. From this point of view, the present
abridgment is more convenient by far than the original.
The violence of Spengler's pessimism and especially his rejection
of the real values of Western civilization (such as moderation,
rationality, pluralism, humanitarianism, social cooperation) are of
great symptomatic value in any diagnosis of the background of Nazism or
of the general impulse to irrational activism and tribal solidarity
which came so close to destroying our civilization in the generation
which read the original version of this work.
Thus its value remains for the modern reader, and Alfred Knopf, as
he invariably does, has given us a beautiful volume, enhanced by
introductions and an excellent index.