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Spengler on Unfruitfulness

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Perhaps Oswald Spengler’s greatest contribution to the philosophy of history is his removal of history from the mechanistic realm of cause and effect and placing it instead within the sphere of biology. Human societies are, after all, composed of living human beings, and so it is only logical that cultures and civilizations are themselves subject to biological, rather than mechanical, laws. In probably the single wisest statement ever made about historiography, Spengler reminds us that, “On the surface of history, it is the unforeseen [emphasis Spengler’s] that reigns.”[1] This realization is a bitter pill to take for many on the Dissident Right, who appear to have taken too seriously the Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov, one of the conceits of which is the invention of the mathematically-based psychohistory by the character Hari Seldon.

If only there were a calculus of history, how much simpler life would be. History is too complex to be mechanically based. History is not a mathematical function. It is a discipline that is more art than science, and it is not for nothing that of all the so-called “social sciences,” only history was accorded its own muse, Clio, by the ancient Greeks.

Spengler makes the distinction between Kultur and Zivilization. A Kultur is the collective manifestation of a human group’s artistic, scientific, economic, moral, and religious identity when it is in its vital phase. Normally, Kultur manifests itself when the human group is mostly bucolic. When the group becomes increasingly urbanized and less vital, this phase is called Zivilization. And when the Zivilization reaches its apogee, according to Spengler, the death process has already begun.

We on the Dissident Right often talk about declining birth rates as a form of cultural and racial suicide. Spengler saw this more than a century ago, and extended the insight to include the artistic and intellectual creations of the group in question:

Unfruitfulness – understanding the word in all its direct seriousness – marks the brain-man of the megalopolis, as the sign of fulfilled destiny, and it is one of the most impressive facts of historical symbolism that the change manifests itself not only in the extinction of great art, of great courtesy, of great formal thought, of the great style in all things, but also quite carnally in the childlessness and “race-suicide” of the civilized and rootless strata, a phenomenon not peculiar to ourselves but already observed and deplored – and of course not remedied – in Imperial Rome and Imperial China.[2]

Unfruitfulness, lack of fecundity, sterility – these are all terms that describe Western birthrates and contemporary Western art and thought. The philosophy of Derrida, a building designed by I. M. Pei, an “artwork” created by Jeff Coons, or anything ever done by anyone calling itself a “performance artist” are as sterile as the womb of a man pretending to be a woman. And here is where causality breaks down. Are the modern artworks that eschew beauty, the modern philosophy that rejects logic, and the modern science that replaces objectivity with emotions the result of cultural suicide, or are they its harbingers? And in the long run, does determining the origin of a chicken-or-the-egg process really matter?

If taken seriously, Spengler’s insight into the unfruitfulness of the West suggests what course the Dissident Right should pursue. Even if the West were one hundred percent Caucasian, the West is essentially dead. It is no longer a fecund civilization; its creativity is spent, and the only project with which it is concerned is the tertiary development of devices for amusement and to make consumerism more facile. All of the great books in my library are from the past; the history of music essentially ended with the death of Stravinsky; and the only works of contemporary visual art that do not bring about vomiting are derivative of past styles. Neoliberalism is slavery, and liberal democracy is merely a velvet glove covering the jackboot.

Perhaps what is needed is for the Dissident Right to use the mourning process of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross so we can get on with the real work of building a new polity and culture. Let’s take a moment and mourn the end of Western civilization, but let’s quickly get to the stage of acceptance so that we can begin the real work of creating a dynamic future, rather than trying to save a dying civilization that does not want to – and probably cannot be – saved.

Notes

[1] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. I, trans. by Charles Francis Atkinson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932), p. 140.

[2] Ibid., p. 359.

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14 Comments

  1. watcher
    Posted June 14, 2019 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    “… velvet glove covering the jackboot.”

    Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ has apposite commentary on this turn of phrase.

  2. Daniel Antinora
    Posted June 14, 2019 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    I mean this is technically great art…

    But is it truly great great?

    I don’t think so.

    https://www.artrenewal.org/

  3. Captain John Charity Spring MA
    Posted June 14, 2019 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Da Vinci made his living producing stage plays, pantomimes, elaborate dinner parties and other amusements for aristocratic patrons. He was a technically incompetent painter if you look into his use of fresco secco on the last supper mural. Genius is much overrated and reputation for “Art” are just fragments of a few precious objects that were saved like his notebooks.
    I been looking around towns like Oxford Warwick Florence and Rome and see a whited supulchre where craftsmen once built the material baseline for genius to emerge.
    Where are the craftsmen?

  4. Tim Newton
    Posted June 13, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The Germanic/Romano civilization that followed the collapse of Rome was animated and guided by Christianity. If the west collapses (or if it already has), what religion do we unite around in order to build a new order? Atheist racialists telling white people to breed isn’t going to cut it. I think you’re correct in your diagnosis, or rather Spengler’s, but where do we go from here? It seems nearly impossible to envision or to create a new civilization since they grow organically.

    • nineofclubs
      Posted June 14, 2019 at 1:30 am | Permalink

      The desire to procreate is natural and requires no urging. The problem today is that capitalism is designed to require both parents to work, or to make material sacrifices that substantially affect both partners and any children born of their union.
      A healthy, non-capitalist state would recognise parenthood as a ‘proper job’ and financially reward those who do it – especially those who are highly valued in the workplace today.
      Fertility rates would be back above replacement level very quickly.

      .

  5. Ovidiu
    Posted June 13, 2019 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I haven’t herd of a bee colony or a wolf-pack dying because “it has grown old”. It is individual bees and individuals wolfs which grow old and die not their colonies and packs which are renewed with each new generation.
    Spengler’s biological metaphors are a source of confusion not “a great contribution” to our understanding of societies.

    The core of the Spenglarian model, the transition from “Kultur” to “Zivilization” (which no bee-colony ever undergoes, which in turn may explain its “mechanical” immortality as a whole despite being composed from biological units) is the same observation that many others made before and after him. At least :
    Ferdinand Tonnies who introduced the concepts of Gemeinschaft (community bonds) and Gesellschaft (mercantile society, glued by weak commercial-contractual bonds)
    Ibn Khaldun with his “asabyia” (social solidarity) concept/explanation for cycle of rise-and-fall of civilizations. Respectively the transition from the high-asabyia of the nomadic warrior/conqueror societies to the low-asabyia and social atomization of the city-dwellers.
    Brooks Adams – “law of civilization and decay” with his model of societal-change from the “imaginative/heroic phase” to the “rational/mercantile phase”. First marked by solidarity and non-materialistic values and second by materialistic values and individualistic competition.
    John Glubb- with his “fate of the empires” and who put it tersely as “from service to selfishness”.

    None of these authors attribute the decay to biological metaphors as Spengles does (or even to literal biological phenomena as Edward Dutton does now, and as Lothrop Stoddard did well before him, who both explain it as being due to genetic decline, i.e. due to lack of selection pressure to remove the misfits).
    What these author stress is that successful societies create, by necessity, the environment which breeds their dissolution because it rewards individualism and thus social dissolution.
    What the West needs is that the Europeans regain their group-solidarity and that requires a common enemy which poses an existential danger.

    • Quintilian
      Posted June 13, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Yes, if humans were bees a mechanistic model would suffice. Actually, what Spengler observed goes far beyond what any other author had ever done in this field, especially to apply it in a universal fashion. The sclerotic nature of the West makes it unsalvageable. It is very humorous to me that so many in the Dissident Right constantly refer to Nietzsche and the Last Man and appear to be longing for the Uebermensch, but they don’t seem to have the courage of their convictions. Western Civilization, The United States, and liberal democracy were interesting experiments. They have failed. Now it’s time to move on to the next phase of White Civilization.

      • Ovidiu
        Posted June 13, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        “The sclerotic nature of the West makes it unsalvageable”

        You are back to Spengler’s biological metaphors. We do not know whether it is salvageable or not. We can never know that. We will know that only after it is dead and buried for good. Only then we will be able to look back as say : “OK, that was the final phase”.

        Until then anything can happen, yes the final death but as well a rebirth and another 200 years glorious run as it happened to the Romans after their 100 years long process of decline and disintegration of the Republic in mass social unrest and civil wars (between 133 BC -27 BC -from the Gracchi Brothers to Augustus). It was followed by an integrative phase, a political reorganization in a Principate/empire and another 200 years of success. That until the disintegration process set in again ( ~180 AD ) followed by the “third century crisis” from which there was no recovery for the Roman civilization but the center of power moved left Rome to rote in decline and moved East, to Constantinopole, where it gave birth to another civilization and empire- the Byzantine Empire- a different, non-Roman but Greek and Christian-Orthodox- civilization which had afterwards had its own 1000 years run (with a peak in the 10th century AD).

        What we know for sure about the West, all signs are here no matter who you read , is that the West is in decline, it is deep into a disintegrative-decadent phase and hence we know that we are heading for more crises, social unrest, break ups, disorder, etc.
        This phase may itself last quite a while. Based on authors as Charles Murray, Putnam, Kotkin, Turchin, and others- the disintegrative phase began in the 1960s, thus before the mass immigration and racial-ethnic change (allowing foreigners to immigrate is typical for the decline phase, see Glubb’s ‘fate of empire’, but it is a consequence of entering decline not a primary cause, but of course it is a particularly nasty one which speeds up the decline by amplifying the loss of social capital and solidarity). How long it will last we don’t know but anything can happen and there will be political forces attempting to take control and reorganize society so as to stop disintegration. Maybe they will succeed, as the Romanns did in 1st BC, or maybe they will fail, as the Romans failed in the 3rd century BC. We can not know that either.

        • Quintilian
          Posted June 13, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          Of course I am using biological metaphors. One uses biological metaphors when one is discussing a biological entity, such as a culture or civilization. The central insight of Spengler’s is that there are too many variables for a mechanical explanation to obtain. It’s just remarkable that so many in the Dissident Right who await the Uebermensch, use darwinism to explain everything, and never cease to talk about the Faustian search for the infinite seem so unwilling to take the next step.

          • Ovidiu
            Posted June 13, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

            “The central insight of Spengler’s is that there are too many variables for a mechanical explanation to obtain.”

            Well, you can have an explanation but what you can not have is a prediction. The forces at play and their effects can be understood – there is an remarkable agreement between long series of authors form the ancients to the moderns on the causes of the decline and the counter-forces which arise to stop and reverse the decline. But you can not asses the strength of this forces and thus you can not predict as in the newtonian mechanics what will be the trajectory.
            Nevertheless understanding the forces at play and their effects is helpful in devising policies. For instance, we should support the national-populism rising in Europe, they are a reaction to the perceived disintegration of their countries, to the loss of social capital and social solidarity due to globalization.
            But will it be enough ? We can’t tell. Maybe yes maybe not. We only have a qualitative understanding of the process (we know who/what we should praise and who/what we should condemn) in a situation where also the quantitative aspects of the social forces need be known so as to be possible to engage in calculations and predictions.

  6. Rob Bottom
    Posted June 13, 2019 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    The problem is not that great artists don’t exist. They do. Most of the great artists of our age are finding work in the film industry. If they’re not creating lasting or important work, it’s because of who is paying them. The reason we have such great works of art from the Renaissance is because the Church was paying artists like Michelangelo instead of some Hollywood type who wanted to make money from base entertainment.

    Believe me, there are many computer graphics artists working in visual effects that are as talented as the old masters. The issue is that their work is entirely digital, they lack the skills to sculpt or paint using real materials because that’s where they can make a career now that the art world is an obvious money-laundering scheme. The same is true of architecture and other fields, which have become utterly Judaicized. Relegate Jews to their proper place and there you will find a thriving civilization waiting to burst forth.

    This is the one reason why I disagree with Spengler’s premise of history being the unforeseen: there is nothing unforeseeable about what is now taking place. In fact, it is precisely because it is by design that the West is falling.

    • Quintilian
      Posted June 13, 2019 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      You miss the point of Spengler’s statement. He is dealing with predictive history. The outcome of events is unforeseen. Also, I think you severely overstate the competence of today’s creative artists. Just like IQ is declining, so too is creative ability. A Michaelangelo or a Mozart is a figure who only comes about perhaps once an epoch. The Dissident Right has to come to grips with the fact that it cannot control events. If it doesn’t, we will see one Charlottesville after another.The West is going to collapse because of its internal contradictions (just as the USSR did). The life cycle of the United States and Western Civilization are on their downward slope. They cannot be reformed; they must be replaced. We need now to begin the arduous process of planning the next civilization and the next polity to replace Western Civilization and liberal democracy.

      • Rob Bottom
        Posted June 13, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        You miss the point of Spengler’s statement. He is dealing with predictive history. The outcome of events is unforeseen.

        You say that while simultaneously asserting that the West is on a downward slope and cannot be reformed. If the outcome is unforeseen, how you can say that? I am saying the downward slope was predictable based on the social engineering that’s been done to us. What is happening now is largely a repeat of the Weimar Republic writ large. All it will take is massive inflation for the same exact conditions to arise, and the same solutions will apply. Had the Third Reich not been destroyed in its infancy, what would German society look like today?

        Also, I think you severely overstate the competence of today’s creative artists. Just like IQ is declining, so too is creative ability. A Michaelangelo or a Mozart is a figure who only comes about perhaps once an epoch.

        Yes, well perhaps I spoke too soon, those are the masters of the masters, so to speak. But go take a look at the art on Zbrush Central and ArtStation. If anything, there are more masters alive today than at any time in human history. As I said, the main difference is medium, and certainly digital sculpting and painting make achieving great results much easier and less time-consuming than with clay or oil paints. But the tools and medium do not make the artist! Is their work less important because it is based on pop-culture rather than, say, Christianity or Greek mythology? Is their knowledge of the human form deficient because they express it in a computer program rather than marble?

        Consider that the old masters lived at a time when the population was much smaller. It was easier then for the cream of the crop to attain notoriety and make their mark on history. There are billions of people today, thus there are more chances of such a person being born and going unrecognized. Again, you don’t see them as on par with the old masters because the society we live in does not value them the way that we once did. There are dozens of film composers, for example, that have produced great work. It’s just been molded by the industry that pays them. That their talents are wasted on Hollywood or whatever does not take away from their innate abilities.

        The Dissident Right has to come to grips with the fact that it cannot control events. The life cycle of the United States and Western Civilization are on their downward slope.

        Events can be controlled if they are planned properly. The recent American Renaissance conference is a perfect example, where protestors were kept at bay by the authorities. The problem with Charlottesville was the authorities defied a lawful order and actively sabotaged the organizers’ rights. Also, I don’t think the modern West reached its peak, rather it was interrupted before it could do so by those who felt threatened by it. We have been artificially driven downwards and they have used every means available to do so.

        • Quintilian
          Posted June 13, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          Yes, you can plan a birthday party or a business meeting, but what Spengler and I are talking about are world-historical events. Those are out of control of individuals. Here we see another pernicious effect of neo-liberal radical individualism: the confusion of the personal with the macrocosmic.

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