Oswald Spengler was a German historian and thinker famous for The Decline of the West, a book that set forth the cyclical theory of the rise and fall of civilizations. He used to be a German patriot and leading competitor of the Weimar Republic, the interwar liberal democracy that preceded the Nazis’ third Reich. But Spengler believed the Nazis too narrow-minded for the sort of cultural rebirth that he felt necessary, and shortly the disillusionment was returned as the Nazis banned his books.
Born Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler in 1880 to an often conservative petit-bourgeois family, he gave his life to a wide-ranging scholarship that included investigations in humanities and letters as well as mathematics and the sciences. But for all his interests, his life was spent uneventfully as a high school teacher, later living off his modest inheritance while taking odd jobs as a mentor or independent writer for additional revenue.
But because his inheritance was based mostly on overseas investments, the economic sanctions against Germany during World War I forced Spengler to live in real misery. Yet it was actually the Great War that assisted his book become an overnight sensation as its pessimism reflected the popular mood and helped rationalize the nations defeat and shame as part of a wider historic process. Interestingly the book also sold very well outside Germany and allowed him enough income to reject an offer to become a philosophy lecturer at the University of Gttingen.
As mentioned previously, Spengler was a product of his times and a thorough chauvinist, but he didn’t share the Nazis’ anti-Semitic ideology and found Hitler coarse and crude, even after a private meeting in 1933. He even went as far as to quarrel in public with leading Nazis theorists of the time, speaking out against their pseudo-scientific concepts on biology and sociology.
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