The Idea of Decline in Western History

Arthur Herman

Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 0684827913 / ISBN 13: 9780684827919
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Synopsis: From Nazism to the Sixties counter-culture, from Britain's Fabian socialists to America's multiculturalists, and from "Dracula" and Freud to Robert Bly and Madonna, this work examines the idea of decline in Western history and sets out to explain how the conviction of civilization's inevitable end has become a fixed part of the modern Western imagination. Through a series of biographical portraits spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, the author traces the roots of declinism and aims to shows how major thinkers of the past and present, including Nietzsche, DuBois, Sartre and Foucault, have contributed to its development as a coherent ideology of cultural pessimism.

Review: In this ambitious and eminently relevant work of popular intellectual history, Arthur Herman, the coordinator of the Western civilization program at the Smithsonian Institution, makes a broad survey of the literature of cultural decline and a scatter-shot retort to the purveyors of doom and gloom. Herman attempts to right the balance unset by panicky prognosticators who either decry the defeat of Western values or herald the bankruptcy of Enlightenment idealism, despite the unparalleled worldwide ascendance of market economics, universal human rights, and representational, constitutional government.

Herman is at his best when making erudite replies to today's ill-informed peddlers of doom and gloom. But when he starts attempting to trace the history of "declinism," to philosophers from Frederick Neitzche to Martin Heidegger, and writers from Henry Adams to Robert Bly, his accusations often fall wide of the intended mark. His assaults on Jean Jacques Rousseau and W.E.B. DuBois will appear particularly unfair to those familiar with the works of these men, though readers who trust in Herman's abbreviated accounts of their thinking will be unknowingly misled. The "Great Ideas" framework Herman defends in the pages of this book ought to prize the close reading of important texts as much as it seeks to protect a sacrosanct canon or a static notion of prized ideals. Great ideas after all stand up to close attention. Herman's book conveys a confidence in the values of the Western tradition, but in making its argument, it inspires a casual disrespect from the works of other arguably great thinkers and artists based on Herman's swift survey--a dubious achievement and troublesome side effect of this challenging book.

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Title: The Idea of Decline in Western History
Publisher: Free Press
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: VERY GOOD

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Book Description The Free Press, New York, NY, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. First Edition. (full book description) The Free Press, New York, NY, 1997. 1st Edition 1st Printing, VG+/Fine, Hard Cover, w/Dust Jacket. Size=6.5"x9.5", 521pgs(Index). A few very faint & very tiny dust foxing specks on top page ends, o.w. clean and tight. No ink names, underlines, tears, chips, etc. Price unclipped. Contents and book covers in Fine condition. ISBN 0684827913 20% OFF our regular catalogue price. SELLING WORLDWIDE since 1987. 99% OF OUR BOOKS ARE SHIPPED IN CUSTOM BOXES, WE ALWAYS PACK WITH GREAT CARE!. Book. Bookseller Inventory # CONROY245502I

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Book Description Free Press, 1996. hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good In Dustjacket. 1st Edition. New York. 1996. Free Press. 1st Edition. Very Good In Dustjacket. 521 pages. January 1997. hardcover. Cover: Tom Stvan. 0684827913. keywords: 41704. inventory # 23203. FROM THE PUBLISHER - From Nazism to the sixties counterculture, from Britain's Fabian Socialists to America's multiculturalists, from Dracula and Freud to Robert Bly and Madonna, historian Arthur Herman examines the idea of decline in Western history and explains how the conviction of civilization's inevitable end has become a fixed part of the modern Western imagination. In a series of masterful biographical sketches, Herman examines the ideas of those who came to reject civilization as a doomed enterprise, including Arthur de Gobineau, the aristocratic founder of modern race theory; Friedrich Nietzsche, whose vitalist philosophy of irrationalism inclined a generation toward fascism and Nazism; and W.E.B. Du Bois, whose hostile view of the West would profoundly influence African-American thinking and multiculturalism. Ultimately, Herman shows how two of the most important issues facing contemporary America-race and the fate of the environment-have been shaped and distorted by the assumptions of cultural pessimism. From the Aryan Nation and Afrocentrism to the Unabomber, the myth of Western decline continues to exercise a pervasive influence. In many ways, Herman suggests, today's culture wars are ultimately a struggle between those who still recognize the importance of civilized and humanist values and those who do not. Bookseller Inventory # 23203

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