In December one hundred years ago, Oswald Spengler dismissed the preface to the first edition of the first volume of the Sunset of the West ( pp. 677, 40.00 euros ) which would be released the following year, at the height of the most devastating European crisis of the era. modern.
There could not have been a better opportunity, therefore, to re-propose this classic of thought and the publisher Nino Aragno did not let it slip by sending back to the bookstore the text that, controversial at the time, is today more relevant than ever in the face of the decadence of the roots and of the cultural and spiritual values ​​of a world that mark, probably beyond the Spenglerian “predictions” themselves, the premises of the historical Euro-Atlantic disintegration beyond which we do not know what to expect. It is a real pity that Julius Evola ‘s translation of the first edition of Tramonto, prepared sixty years ago, in 1957, when the fumes of European dissolution still clearly visible, have been replaced (but it is not said who the new translator is, perhaps Giuseppe Racitiwho appears as curator of the work
). The traditionalist philosopher, with an impeccable language adhering to the spirit of Spengler, confirming himself as the best Italian exegete of the same together with Lorenzo Giusso , opened doors that had been tenaciously closed from 1918-1922 (the years of the publication of the two volumes) to put a cultured public, far away and not subjugated by Benedetto Croce ‘s “conjurations” , in contact with the intellectual who had in mind – and succeeded – to elaborate a “German philosophy”, the natural daughter of Goethe, Nietzsche and even Leibniz.
It is a real shame that the re-edition of the second volume has been postponed. The grandeur of the work probably justifies the editorial choice, but does not favor the understanding of an imposing “morphology of universal history”, as the author claimed that his Sunset should be considered, and perhaps leads to some misrepresentation, given that in the introductory note the editor seems to want to give an original interpretation that refers to the afterword in the second volume. We will wait.
Meanwhile, let’s take this opportunity to applaud the reappearance of a text as dense as it is beautiful, profound and evocative, radiating millenary lights on a horizon that is part of our spiritual landscape. It is the best way to celebrate an anniversary that could or should introduce a discussion on the value and legacy of Spengler having passed almost in silence the 80th anniversary of his death, last year, always partly filled by the publisher Aragno with the republication of Man and Technique, an essay that appeared in 1932, in a German edition, composed on the basis of a conference held the previous year, preceded by a preface also by Raciti originally entitled Like a rolling stone, a Spenglerian “gleaning” in any case , taken from the same text: “The rolling stone approaches,
On May 8, 1936, at the age of fifty-six and at the height of his fame, Oswald Spengler died in Munich, his chosen city where he lived in the solitary observation of a world that was disintegrating before his eyes. Contemplative and alert, composing works that inevitably revolved around his morphology of history which, eighty years after his death (an anniversary ignored by all), still appears to us as the epitome of European and Western decadence. It is easy to say today that he was a sort of “prophet”, just to abandon him to his fate. Much more likely we should reconsider him as the most lucid analyst of the twentieth century, not only from the philosophical point of view but also – and above all – for the political vision that descended from his morphology.
When Spengler embarked on the huge job that would become The Waning of the West, he had in mind to write a historical novel, like Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrocks. Then, deeply affected by the Agadir crisis, he let himself be carried away by the passion towards the composition of a historical essay, or “historical novel” for some, which became even something more. Spengler was inspired by Otto Seeck’s book, Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (History of the sunset of the ancient world). The work was completed in 1914 but the publication was postponed due to the outbreak of the First World War during which Spengler lived poorly, because his inheritance, invested outside Europe, was practically unusable.
The decline of the West is a universal book that time has not “consumed” because, admittedly or not, directly or indirectly, it is one of those that has profoundly affected European culture. In the same way, to give two examples, of how they recorded, albeit after misunderstandings and resistance, The world as will and representation by Arthur Schopenhauer and Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Spengler, no less than the two philosophers of the nineteenth century, conquered, fascinated and intrigued the German bourgeoisie of the second decade of the twentieth century to assert itself, with the strength of an irrefutable diagnosis of decadence, in Europe devastated by the results of the World War which gave strength to Sunset that was perceived as the examination of conscience of a West frightened in front of itself. Scared and disoriented no less than he is today, one hundred years after the publication of the work.
Spengler puts before the Europeans what they had accepted neither from Schopenhauer nor from Nietzsche because they could not touch it: decadence. There was no reason: the gay apocalypse did not shake the old Europeans who fell asleep with ancient certainties and woke up, after the conflict, with a terrified look on the void.
When The Fall of the West appeared it was easy to denigrate it, as the product of defeated Germany. Yet it was born in 1911 when the Wilhelminian Empire still deluded itself that its destiny could be different, like that of the rest of Europe. The signs that had been ominously manifested from the Great Revolution onwards had served neither the continental oligarchies nor the bourgeois nor the nascent working class who imagined its emancipation by destroying the old order. There was nothing more to destroy; everything had already been accomplished. The West reeled under the blows of its own utopias; the “European civil war” did nothing but certify the crisis of a world that survived with difficulty under the illusion that, after all, nothing would really change. “In this book – Spengler wrote in the Introduction – the attempt to predetermine history is ventured for the first time. It is a question of following the destiny of a civilization, and in particular of the only civilization whose fulfillment is now taking place on this planet, the Euro-American civilization, in the stages not yet undertaken ”. The object is clear, the goal too, but the consequences
This is why we ask ourselves if the Sunset still makes sense today. If it is true that “civilization is a plant”, as Spengler maintains, it is also true that it continues to agonize; its leaves are yellowed; he is waiting for nothing but to die. Nobody knows when the event will occur. And probably no one can question this “truth” predicted by Spengler who, as a morphologist of history, was under no illusion that he could suggest miraculous recipes to avoid it. Civilizations, after all, are organisms, characterized by an almost biological destiny that must inevitably end its cycle. They can flourish again, of course, but in other forms. From the western rubble in which we roam what can be born
It is on this question that Spengler’s long meditation stops, marked by an icy realism and therefore worthy of consideration beyond the dull hopes nurtured so much to remove the specter of a dead end crisis.
Civilizations, like all vital forms, belong to the “organic world” and therefore respond to a biological principle. Therefore they are endowed with a soul that characterizes them. Having a story, cultivating a destiny means adhering to the dictates of the soul. In the ascending period of a civilization (Kultur) the spiritual and moral values ​​prevail which give meaning to the existence of beings who live according to the dictates of natural law; community existence is organized into orders, castes, hierarchies; in the hearts of peoples a profound religious sentiment dominates which pervades art, politics, economics and literature. When civilization ages and its soul shrinks, it passes to the stage of “civilization” (Zivilisation); the principle of quality is replaced by that of quantity; to craftsmanship, technique; the invasiveness of the standardization of tastes and customs overwhelms the differences; the city, inspired by country life and organized on a human scale, is replaced by the megalopolis as an extreme form of indifferentism, a termite mound without a human dimension; societies are leveled, hedonism and money are the only recognized values.
“Only when, with the advent of civilization – writes Spengler – the low tide of the whole world of forms begins, the structures of mere living conditions emerge naked and overbearing: the times come when the vulgar saying that ‘hunger and sex ‘are the real moments of existence, it ceases to be felt as an impudence, the times in which not becoming strong in view of a task, but the happiness of the most, well-being and comfort, bread and circuses, constitute the meaning of life and grand politics gives rise to economic policy understood as an end in itself “.
Words that seem written in these troubled times: they were thought up over a century ago, when Spengler wanted to write, around the decade of the decade, as we have said, a great historical novel and found himself, transported by the feeling of decadence, describing what inevitably it would happen. The decline of the West was a huge success: Germany humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the economic depression of 1923, fueled by hyperinflation, proved Spengler right. For the Germans the theses contained in his work corresponded to their feelings: thanks to them the collapse of Germany made sense, it became understandable. The sunset was a huge success even beyond national borders, translated into many languages, sparked a continental debate. Spengler, now famous,
The Sunset sparked conflicting views. For Thomas Mann it was like reading Arthur Schopenhauer for the first time; for Max Weber Spengler was a “very ingenious and cultured amateur”; Ludwig Wittgenstein shared his cultural pessimism. In Italy, Benedetto Croce, attending to the evolutions of German thought, not very elegantly advise the readers of Spengler to “do the spells” before taking up his work.
In 1928, ten years after the publication of the first volume, the American magazine “Time” published a review of only the second volume of The Sunset of the West. He described the immense influence of Spengler’s ideas and the debate he had aroused: “When the first volume of The Fall of the West came out a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. The debate in Europe soon focuses on Spengler’s thesis. Spenglerism “infected” countless intellectuals “. In the second volume (it is impossible not to refer to it too), Spengler argued that German socialism was something other than Marxism – an essay on this subject entitled it Prussianism and socialism – and that it was compatible with traditional German conservatism. In 1924, following the political-social unrest and inflation, Spengler tried to influence, without success, the national-conservative attempt to bring Reichswehr General Hans von Seeckt to power. In 1931 he published Man and Technique, which warned against the dangers of technology, a theme that Martin Heidegger would have practiced along with many other thinkers of the conservative Revolution, and of omnivorous industrialism. In particular, he pointed the finger at the tendency of Western technology to spread among the enemy “races of color”, who would then take up arms against the West. theme on which Martin Heidegger would have practiced together with many other thinkers of the conservative Revolution, and of omnivorous industrialism. In particular, he pointed the finger at the tendency of Western technology to spread among the enemy “races of color”, who would then take up arms against the West. theme on which Martin Heidegger would have practiced together with many other thinkers of the conservative Revolution, and of omnivorous industrialism. In particular, he pointed the finger at the tendency of Western technology to spread among the enemy “races of color”, who would then take up arms against the West.
Spengler was thus approaching the “decisive years”. But here another chapter opens in the intellectual story of the thinker.

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