Birthday: May 29, 1880
Died At Age: 55
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Blankenburg, Germany
Famous as: Philosopher
father: Bernhard Spengler
mother: Pauline Spengler
siblings: Adele (1881–1917), Gertrud (1882–1957), Hildegard (1885–1942)
Died on: May 8, 1936
place of death: Munich, Germany
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
education: Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Who was Oswald Spengler?
Oswald Spengler was a renowned German historian and philosopher. He was keen on studying science, mathematics, and art, and their relation to the cyclical theory of history. His book, ‘The Decline of the West’ (Der Untergang des Abendlandes), covered the entire world history and was a major contribution to social theory. According to Spengler, any culture is a superorganism that has a limited and predictable lifespan. He also asserted that the spirit of a culture could not be transferred to another culture. Based on his thoughts and studies, Spengler predicted that by the year 2000, “Western Civilization would enter the period of pre-death emergency.” He also stated that countering this crisis would lead to Caesarism before Western Civilization’s eventual collapse. Spengler is believed to have been a nationalist and anti-democracy. He was a prominent member of the Conservative Revolution, but he chose to denounce Nazism, mainly due to its excessive racist views. Despite his criticism, he often saw people like Italian leader Benito Mussolini and entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes as growing examples of the upcoming “Caesars of the Western culture.” After the rise of Hitler, Spengler chose to live in isolation until his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Oswald Spengler was born on 29 May 1880, at Blankenburg, Germany. He was the second child of Bernhard and Pauline Spengler. When he was ten, his family moved to the City of Halle. He was educated at the local Gymnasium (an academically-oriented school).
He studied Greek, Latin, mathematics, and science at the Gymnasium. He also developed his interest in arts during this time period. He was vastly influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Nietzsche. Spengler’s passion lay in poetry, drama, and music.
In 1901, after his father’s death, Oswald Spengler went on to attend several universities in Munich, Berlin, and Halle as a private scholar. His studies were mostly undirected, and in 1903, he flunked his doctoral thesis on Heraclitus. This ended Spengler’s chance of having an academic career.
On April 6, 1904, he eventually received his Ph.D. from Halle, and in December, he set out to become a high school teacher. He wrote the secondary dissertation soon and got his teaching certificate.
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Oswald Spengler briefly served as a teacher in Saarbrücken and Düsseldorf. In the years from 1908 to 1911, he worked at a grammar school in Hamburg. He taught science, German history, and mathematics there.
After his mother’s death in 1911, Spengler moved to Munich. He lived in isolation while working as a tutor and as a writer for a magazine. It was during this time that Spengler decided to write the first volume of his most famous work, ‘The Decline of the West.’
His initial idea was to focus only on Germany, but the Agadir Crisis of 1911 made him rethink. He felt a world war was imminent and went on to state that this would be a preordained historical change of phase that was occurring within a historical organism.
Even though the book was completed in 1914, it could not be published at the time due to the ongoing World War I. When ‘The Decline of the West’ was finally published in the summer of 1918, it became a huge success.
Events like the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and the economic depression of 1923 proved Oswald Spengler right. The book was met with wide success even outside Germany, and in 1919, it was translated into numerous foreign languages.
’The Decline of the West’ sparked mixed reactions from historians and academics. Many frowned upon his non-scientific approach and cultural pessimism.
In late 1919, Spengler published his next work, which was titled ‘Prussianism and Socialism.’ It was an essay that was based on notes for the second volume of ‘The Decline of the West.’ With this, he argued that only German socialism is “true socialism” when compared with English socialism. He argued that the “right” socialism should have a national spirit.
Oswald Spengler predicted that humankind would be spending the last hundred years of its existence in a harmonious totality under a dictator. A state of “Caesarian Socialism” is what Spengler called it.
Spengler rejected all democratic provisions and celebrated capitalistic elements. In 1922, he issued a revised edition of ‘The Decline of the West,’ and in the following year, he published the second volume. It was titled ‘Perspectives of World History.’
The book reiterated the differences between German socialism and Marxism, and how it was compatible with traditional German conservatism. In 1924, he also entered politics and tried to bring Reichswehr general Hans von Seeckt to power as the country’s leader, in which he ultimately failed.
He published ‘Man and Technics’ (1931), which warned the society against technology and industrialism. It was poorly received, mainly due to its anti-industrialism. In 1933, Spengler met Hitler. Even after a lengthy discussion, he was left largely unimpressed.
He publicly quarreled with the Head of the Reich ministry, Alfred Rosenberg, and his remarks about the Führer resulted in public silence and isolation. In 1934, he released another book, ‘The Hour of Decision.’ It was a best-seller, but the National Socialist German Workers Party banned it.
Death & Legacy
Oswald Spengler never married. He spent his final years at Munich in isolation. He traveled to the Harz mountains and Italy occasionally. Shortly before his death, he predicted the fall of the German Reich in a letter to Reichsleiter Hans Frank.
He died of a heart attack on May 8, 1936.