In this new and revised edition of Oswald Spengler’s classic, Man and Technics, Spengler makes a number of predictions that today, more than eighty years after the book was first published, have turned out to be remarkably accurate. Spengler predicted that industrialisation would lead to serious environmental problems and that countless species would become extinct. He also predicted that labour from Third World countries would increasingly outcompete Western workers by doing the same work for much lower wages, and that industrial production would therefore move to other parts of the world, such as East Asia, India, and South America.
According to Spengler, technology has not only made it possible for man to harness the forces of nature; it has also alienated him from nature. Modern technology now dominates our culture instead of that which is natural and organic. After having made himself the master of nature, man has himself become technology’s slave. ‘The victor, crashed, is dragged to death by the team’, Spengler summarises.
Finally, Spengler foresaw that Western man would eventually grow weary of his increasingly artificial lifestyle and begin to hate the civilisation he himself created. There is no way out of this conundrum as the unrelenting progress of technological development cannot be halted. The current high-tech culture of the West is therefore doomed, destined to be consumed from within and destroyed. A time will come, Spengler writes, when our giant cities and skyscrapers have fallen in ruins and lie forgotten ‘just like the palaces of old Memphis and Babylon’. It remains to be seen if this last, and most dire, of Spengler’s prophecies will also come true.
The German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880–1936) was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. In 1904 he was awarded a doctorate from the University of Halle for a dissertation on the philosophy of Heraclitus. Spengler then left the university to work as a teacher at a gymnasium school in Hamburg. After having received a small inheritance from his mother in 1911, Spengler quit his position as a teacher, moved to Munich, and started out on a new career as a writer. His breakthrough came in 1918 when the first volume of his magnum opus The Decline of the West was published.
In The Decline of the West, Spengler argues that civilisations inevitably go through a series of cycles of rise and decline. They are born, bloom, and then fade away as if they were living entities. According to Spengler, Western civilisation has entered its final, declining phase and is slowly dying. The Decline of the West became a bestseller and was widely discussed in intellectual and academic circles.
The Decline of the West made Spengler a household name. He became one of the leading figures of the so-called ‘Conservative Revolution’—an intellectual movement in Weimar Germany that sought to rebuild the German nation based on conservative synthesis of nationalist, conservative, and socialist principles following the fall of the Hohenzollern empire, calling for a ‘third way’ between liberal democracy and Communism. After the Nazis’ ascension to power in 1933, Spengler became increasingly marginalised. His last major work, The Hour of Decision, was banned by the Nazi censors due to its criticisms of certain aspects of Nazi ideology. Three years later Spengler passed away from natural causes at his home in Munich.
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