Historian Arthur Herman traces the roots of declinism and shows how major thinkers, past and present, have contributed to its development as a coherent ideology of cultural pessimism. From Nazism to the Sixties counterculture, 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 show 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.
An in-depth intellectual history of the Western idea and a passionate defense of its importance to America's future, From Plato to NATO is the first book to make sense of the legacy of the West at a time when it is facing its greatest challenges. Readers of Francis Fukuyama, John Gray, Samuel Huntington, and other analysts of the dilemmas of Western nations in the twenty-first century will find in David Gress's original account a fuller description of what the West really is and how, with the best of intentions, it has been misrepresented. Most important, they will encounter a new vision of Western identity and how it can be recovered. Early in the twentieth century, American educators put together a story of Western civilization, its origins, history, and promise that for the subsequent fifty years remained at the heart of American college education. The story they told was of a Western civilization that began with the Greeks and continued through 2,500 years of great books and great ideas, culminating in twentieth-century progressive liberal democracy, science, and capitalist prosperity. In the 1960s, this Grand Narrative of the West came under attack. Over the next thirty years, the critics turned this old story into its opposite: a series of anti-narratives about the evils, the failures, and the betrayals of justice that, so they said, constituted Western history. The victory of Western values at the end of the cold war, the spread of democracy and capitalism, and the worldwide impact of American popular culture have not revived the Grand Narrative in the European and American heartlands of the West. David Gress explains this paradox, arguing that the Grand Narrative of the West was flawed from the beginning: that the West did not begin in Greece and that, in morality and religion, the Greeks were an alien civilization whose contribution was mediated through Rome and Christianity. Furthermore, in assuming a continuity from the Greeks to modern liberalism, we have mistakenly downplayed or rejected everything in between, focusing on the great ideas and the great books rather than on real history with all its ambiguities, conflicts, and contradictions. The heart of Gress's case for the future of the West is that the New must remember its roots in the Old and seek a synthesis. For as the attacks have demonstrated, the New West cannot stand alone. Its very virtues -- liberty, reason, progress -- grew out of the Old West and cannot flourish when removed from that rich soil.
"Hope expresses more than an area of concentration in Ellul's thought; it is the central idea that binds his disparate elements together. Ellul believed that at this moment of history, the world since 1945, hope must preoccupy our thinking and lives. "To understand hope we must first comprehend its absence. This entails discerning what causes the absence of hope, namely the world's embrace of technique and the abandonment of God. Ellul also rejected these as a positive affirmation. He wanted to make a firm distinction between reality and truth. He affirmed modern abandonment as a realistic fact, as an accurate analysis of the present condition, not as an affirmation of the truth. Hope is truth in Jesus Christ, but truth must be asserted against these harsh facts. He used facts to incite hope in believers, to shake their complacency and to realize their actual condition in the world . . . . The idea of hope in the thought of Jacques Ellul can only be properly understood in light of dialectic struggle between negatives, which amount to factual representations of the modern world, and positives, through which hope exerts itself in the face of these facts. From this tension will issue personal resolve. Technique has brought the world to great collective heights and achievements, but this has come at the expense of personal ends and meaning. Ellul attempted to bridge this gap by asserting individual meaning against the aggregated progress of technique without destroying the gains made by collective advance. This represents the central dilemma in Ellul's thought--how does one maintain meaning and personal aims in a world founded on corporate necessity?" --from the Introduction
The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Ever ything in It
Author: Arthur Herman
Publisher: Broadway Books
An exciting account of the origins of the modern world Who formed the first literate society? Who invented our modern ideas of democracy and free market capitalism? The Scots. As historian and author Arthur Herman reveals, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland made crucial contributions to science, philosophy, literature, education, medicine, commerce, and politics—contributions that have formed and nurtured the modern West ever since. Herman has charted a fascinating journey across the centuries of Scottish history. Here is the untold story of how John Knox and the Church of Scotland laid the foundation for our modern idea of democracy; how the Scottish Enlightenment helped to inspire both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution; and how thousands of Scottish immigrants left their homes to create the American frontier, the Australian outback, and the British Empire in India and Hong Kong. How the Scots Invented the Modern World reveals how Scottish genius for creating the basic ideas and institutions of modern life stamped the lives of a series of remarkable historical figures, from James Watt and Adam Smith to Andrew Carnegie and Arthur Conan Doyle, and how Scottish heroes continue to inspire our contemporary culture, from William “Braveheart” Wallace to James Bond. And no one who takes this incredible historical trek will ever view the Scots—or the modern West—in the same way again.
In this eloquent and impassioned book, defense expert Fred Iklé predicts a revolution in national security that few strategists have grasped; fewer still are mindful of its historic roots. We are preoccupied with suicide bombers, jihadist terrorists, and rogue nations producing nuclear weapons, but these menaces are merely distant thunder that foretells the gathering storm. It is the dark side of technological progress that explains this emerging crisis. Globalization guarantees the spread of new technologies, whether beneficial or destructive, and this proliferation reaches beyond North Korea, Iran, and other rogue states. Our greatest threat is a cunning tyrant gaining possession of a few weapons of mass destruction. His purpose would not be to destroy landmarks, highjack airplanes, or attack railroad stations. He would annihilate a nation's government from within and assume dictatorial power. The twentieth century offers vivid examples of tyrants who have exploited major national disasters by rallying violent followers and intimidating an entire nation. To explain how we have become so vulnerable, Iklé turns to history. Some 250 years ago, science was freed from political and religious constraints, causing a cultural split in which one part of our culture remained animated by religion and politics while the other became guided by science. Since then, technological progress and the evolving political order march to different drummers. Science advances at an accelerating pace while religion and politics move along a zigzag course. This divergence will widen and endanger the survival of all nations. Drawing on his experience as a Washington insider, Iklé outlines practical measures that could readily be implemented to help us avert the worst disaster.
The People and Ideas that Shaped the Modern Mind: A History
Author: Peter Watson
Publisher: Hachette UK
A history of the twentieth century which covers all the ideas, people, great events, literary and artistic movements, scientific discoveries which have shaped the twentieth century. Terrible Beauty presents a unique narrative of the twentieth century. Unlike more conventional histories, where the focus is on political events and personalities, on wars, treaties and elections, this book concentrates on the ideas that made the century so rich, rewarding and provocative. Beginning with four seminal ideas which were introduced in 1900 - the unconscious, the gene, the quantum and Picasso's first paintings in Paris - the book brings together the main areas of thought and juxtaposes the most original and influential ideas of our time in an immensely readable narrative. From the creation of plastic to Norman Mailer, from the discovery of the 'Big Bang' to the Counterculture, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Salman Rushdie, and Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow, the book's range is encyclopedic. We meet in these pages the other twentieth century, the writers, the artists, the scientists and philosophers who were not cowed by the political and military disasters raging around them, and produced some of the most amazing and rewarding ideas by which we live. Terrible Beauty, endlessly stimulating and provocative, affirms that there was much more to the twentieth century than war and genocide.
[FOR HISTORY CATALOGS]Drawing on the pronouncements of public commentators, this book portrays the 20th century history of U.S. cities, focusing specifically on how commentators crafted a discourse of urban decline and prosperity peculiar to the post-World War II era. The efforts of these commentators spoke to the foundational ambivalence Americans have toward their cities and, in turn, shaped the choices Americans made as they created and negotiated the country's changing urban landscape. [FOR GEOG/URBAN CATALOGS]Freely crossing disciplinary boundaries, this book uses the words of those who witnessed the cities' distress to portray the postwar discourse on urban decline in the United States. Up-dated and substantially re-written in stronger historical terms, this new edition explores how public debates about the fate of cities drew from and contributed to the choices made by households, investors, and governments as they created and negotiated America's changing urban landscape.
Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of biological research into the causes of crime, but the origins of this kind of research date back to the late nineteenth century. Here, Richard Wetzell presents the first history of German criminology from Imperial Germany through the Weimar Republic to the end of the Third Reich, a period that provided a unique test case for the perils associated with biological explanations of crime. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources from criminological, legal, and psychiatric literature, Wetzell shows that German biomedical research on crime predominated over sociological research and thus contributed to the rise of the eugenics movement and the eventual targeting of criminals for eugenic measures by the Nazi regime. However, he also demonstrates that the development of German criminology was characterized by a constant tension between the criminologists' hereditarian biases and an increasing methodological sophistication that prevented many of them from endorsing the crude genetic determinism and racism that characterized so much of Hitler's regime. As a result, proposals for the sterilization of criminals remained highly controversial during the Nazi years, suggesting that Nazi biological politics left more room for contention than has often been assumed.
Publisher: Macmillan International Higher Education
Category: Political sociology
The West is on everyone's lips: it is defended, celebrated, hated. But how and why did it emerge? And whose idea is it? This book is about representations of the West. Drawing on sources from across the world - from Russia to Japan, Iran to Britain - it argues that the West is not merely a Western idea but something that many people around the world have long been creating and stereotyping. The Idea of the West looks at how the great political and ethnic forces of the last century defined themselves in relation to the West, addresses how Soviet communism, 'Asian spirituality', 'Asian values' and radical Islamism used and deployed images of the West. Both topical and wide-ranging, it offers an accessible but provocative portrait of a fascinating subject and it charts the complex relationship between whiteness and the West.