Books: Gotterdammerung Revisited

THE DECLINE OF THE WEST (414 pp.) —Oswald Spongier—abridged by Helmut Werner—Knopf ($6.95).

No gloomier metaphor was ever coined to lend a semblance of shape to man's long struggle through history. Cultures, said Oswald Spengler, are limited biological forms of life—like inchworms, like oak trees, like men. Mysteriously born, they inexorably grow old, decay according to discernible pattern and then die. What is more, Spengler insisted, Western culture has already reached the last stages of its allotted life span.

A troll-eyed German high school teacher, Spengler looked at history not as a linear series of...

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