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Spengler on Unfruitfulness

[1]754 words

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] [2] 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] [3]

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.


[1] [4] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. I, trans. by Charles Francis Atkinson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932), p. 140.

[2] [5] Ibid., p. 359.