How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)

Discussion of Spengler's writings and ideas

How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)

Postby Booklady's Ghost » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:46 pm

Great news, David P. Goldman's book (aka our Spengler) is ready to buy at the following online sites:

Image

Amazon for $18.26, hardcover and $29.95 MP3 CD Audiobook

And from

Barnes & Noble at $18.26 hardcover and $22.83 audiobook

There may be more sites out there...

Question: Spengler, are you planning book signing sessions, if so where? And, if we mail you our book, would you autograph it?


Muchas Gracias!
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Postby Higher Game » Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:07 am

Hmm, this brings to mind an older post.

Spengler wrote:Greek culture got a second life from Christianity, and Byzantium reversed the pattern of demographic decline during the High Middle Ages, all the way until the 15th century, when the Turk was at the gate. I actually spent a good deal of time researching Byzantine demographics, which support the overall thesis, but will not include the material in the book -- there simply isn't enough room for every possible excursus.


Yet, the hardcover book just has 256 pages; are publishers being cheapskates here or withholding material for second editions and so on? :evil:

Hopefully we get the "preview chapters" here, good quality stuff that didn't make the book. The Byzantines have always interested me, the black sheep of Classical culture.
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Postby lzzrdgrrl » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:04 pm

Not expected to make the NYT Top Ten counts for about a tenner on the cover price....'>........
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Postby cassowary » Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:12 pm

Dear Spengler,

I have a request. Can you make your book available as an ebook?
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Postby Booklady's Ghost » Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:14 pm

cassowary wrote:Dear Spengler,

I have a request. Can you make your book available as an ebook?
Actually, that is an excellent idea.
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Postby samwise » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:41 am

Booklady's Ghost wrote:
cassowary wrote:Dear Spengler,

I have a request. Can you make your book available as an ebook?
Actually, that is an excellent idea.


Agreed. The only reason I would prefer a dead-wood version over a digital one is the possibility of getting my copy into Mr. Goldman's hands so he can sign it.

Otherwise, I've probably purchased at least twice as many books as I would have because of the ease of acquisition and relatively inexpensive nature of the ebook. Now that many Kindle books are paginated, it's even better.
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Postby Booklady's Ghost » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:47 am

samwise wrote:
Booklady's Ghost wrote:
cassowary wrote:Dear Spengler,

I have a request. Can you make your book available as an ebook?
Actually, that is an excellent idea.


Agreed. The only reason I would prefer a dead-wood version over a digital one is the possibility of getting my copy into Mr. Goldman's hands so he can sign it.

Otherwise, I've probably purchased at least twice as many books as I would have because of the ease of acquisition and relatively inexpensive nature of the ebook. Now that many Kindle books are paginated, it's even better.


Do you own a kindle, samwise? I haven't made the jump yet, but I will because I like the portability concept of the kindle.

Yes, I too ordered a hardcover because I would love Mr. Goldman to sign it, after all I've been a fan for many years, not as long as you samwise. :)
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Postby samwise » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:21 am

Booklady's Ghost wrote:Do you own a kindle, samwise? I haven't made the jump yet, but I will because I like the portability concept of the kindle.

Yes, I too ordered a hardcover because I would love Mr. Goldman to sign it, after all I've been a fan for many years, not as long as you samwise. :)
Figured that question would pop up: no, I use an iPad (with Kindle app), which I use anyway as a laptop replacement in my teaching--much lighter, and for some applications more convenient. I also have the Kindle app on my MacBook and an iPod touch. So I have access to my ebooks 3 ways.
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Postby lzzrdgrrl » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:38 am

A question - who does the reading for the Audiobook? If it's David himself, that would be so <3 and I'd hafta buy at least one copy.......
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A request

Postby Spengler » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:57 am

My publisher informs me that it would be helpful if this discussion were conducted in the "Review" section of the book page at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Civilizations-Die-Islam-Dying/product-reviews/159698273X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Many thanks in advance.
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Postby Booklady's Ghost » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:06 am

Of course will do so. But I see you have a second book:

It's Not the End of the World, It's Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations [Paperback]

It's on Pre-order! Spengler, you've been a busy man.
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Postby Higher Game » Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:25 pm

Booklady's Ghost wrote:Of course will do so. But I see you have a second book:

It's Not the End of the World, It's Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations [Paperback]

It's on Pre-order! Spengler, you've been a busy man.


That's iirc an edited compilation of his Asia Times columns, so it's good you haven't migrated to the Kindle yet. :)
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Postby Spengler » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:53 pm

Higher Game wrote:
Booklady's Ghost wrote:Of course will do so. But I see you have a second book:

It's Not the End of the World, It's Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations [Paperback]

It's on Pre-order! Spengler, you've been a busy man.


That's iirc an edited compilation of his Asia Times columns, so it's good you haven't migrated to the Kindle yet. :)


Almost half the material in the second book comes from First Things, which AToL readers might not have read.
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Postby Booklady's Ghost » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:59 pm

Spengler wrote:
Higher Game wrote:
Booklady's Ghost wrote:Of course will do so. But I see you have a second book:

It's Not the End of the World, It's Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations [Paperback]

It's on Pre-order! Spengler, you've been a busy man.


That's iirc an edited compilation of his Asia Times columns, so it's good you haven't migrated to the Kindle yet. :)


Almost half the material in the second book comes from First Things, which AToL readers might not have read.
Compilation of all of your essays, Spengler, or a selection of your work?
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Postby Spengler » Mon Sep 19, 2011 9:13 pm

Booklady,

The second book is mainly (90%) material that has appeared elsewhere, but it is organized conceptually and thematically in a fresh way, I think.
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Postby Hockey Dad » Fri Sep 23, 2011 9:13 pm

As 'Spengler in pajamas' noted this morning, he is happy to have his new book reviewed in Forbes, by Reuven Brenner:


"... Whether you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Goldmruan’s demographic-mixed-with-religion journey through world history (and I found myself disagreeing at times), the book displays the dazzling erudition, fluidity, and sarcasm that marks Goldman’s newspaper columns written under the “Spengler” pseudonym." ...
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Postby Hocketing Dad » Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:45 am

^^^

Not having read either Spengler's new book, or reviewer Brenner's works, my own first impression is that more confusion than clarification is the outcome of Brenner's wanting to stir in his distinction between land-based v. commercial civilizations. It is simpler I think to see it as a matter of technology, and the ability this provides to both survive natural calamities and defend against manmade onslaughts.

There was a time, and it was long lasting, when the 'land-based' model was also the most advanced technologically, and population rose with both positive and negative consequences. Then the countries which were most liberal (or least steered by tyranny or dogma, the most rational) took the lead during the industrial revolution, with another population boom resulting, even greater than allowed by the agricultural.

The civilizations that have meanwhile vanished or died, did not manage either of the technological revolutions as well - and countless larger or smaller 'tribes' have throughout history succumbed because they had inadequate defenses and were slaughtered - most often by larger 'suppressive/collectivist' entities which themselves were due for decline; the fate of the Incas at the hands of the Spaniards comes to mind.



-----

PS. Who is this Goldmruan, in Forbes? lol
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Postby cassowary » Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:49 am

I have just ordered Spengler's book. Usually takes 10 days to arrive. Will post comments after I read it.
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Re: "A request" - gratefully denied

Postby Collingwood » Sun Sep 25, 2011 2:00 pm

Spengler wrote:My publisher informs me that it would be helpful if this discussion were conducted in the "Review" section of the book page at Amazon ... Many thanks in advance.

Spengler,

Reviews of books and discussions of books are quite different things. A review should be broad in scope and directed at prospective readers. This forum, by contrast, offers a hope of more focused and selective discussion of your book with people who have already read it, and with the person who wrote it. Seeking the latter, I post here.

How Civilizations Die is excellent. It's stylistically much more accessible that most of your ATol essays -- although at the price of being less artful. Not a lot of new material for a reader who has followed your essays, but a pleasure to read in much the same way that themes previously known only in fugues may be pleasant to hear as a sonata. Thank you.

The clarity of this presentation is particularly welcome. In particular the focus, from start to finish, on the inadequacy of "rational self-interest," or indeed of self-interest of any kind, to explain human behavior in the face of what you call mortality, what I would call the human condition of which mortality is a part. I'll return to that.

It does have occasional non-critical errors. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers led by John Winthrop in and after 1630 were not "Pilgrims" - only the much smaller and earlier group who settled Plymouth Plantation in and after 1620 are called "Pilgrims." Although both were Calvinists, the former were Puritans who sought to reform the C of E, the latter were Separatists who had left it. The practical importance of the distinction is the main theme of Edmund Morgan's Puritan Dilemma, a biography of Winthrop that was already a classic when we were undergrads, and which I think you'd enjoy reading.

And in a book about collective suicide born of national despair, the lack of attention to arguably the most consequential, most interesting attempt at national suicide -- the Zealots -- seems conspicuous. Tractate Sanhedrin, if memory serves, has words about that. And Christianity, no less than Rabbinical Judaism, arguably was born out of rejection of Zealotry.

But as you know, I overwhelmingly agree with the argument.

My only disagreement -- previously expressed on Spengler fora but perhaps worth reiterating -- remains that I think that "mortality" remains too narrow a characterization of the obstacle to "rational self-interest," and that expectation of personal immortality is not required to remove it. As you point out, all men and nations are mortal -- and indeed, so is the world as a whole. The death of one's nation or tribe need not be imminent to make it plain that the tribe or nation, no less than the individual self, is mortal and not well suited to worship or to providing purpose for life. And to overcome that problem, it is not really necessary to expect that the individual self may be immortal, any more than it is necessary to expect that any tribe or nation or institution -- or even the world as a whole -- will endure forever. All that is necessary is to believe that something like a loving God lives and rules forever. As the Siddur puts it, Ha-Shem Yimloch l'olam va-ed: that can suffice, indeed for many of us that suffices. What many of us are grateful for is simply everything, for life, all of it, above all for God's love, which suffices to makes life worth living, and is already ours, here, now, unconditionally, unmerited. To use Pauline terminology, to "justify" the gift of this life seems more than sufficient work for this life, which seems a gift good beyond our deserving or repaying or "justifying," despite personal and collective mortality, and regardless of whether personal immortality be on offer or not.

No orthodox Christian can view the matter this way, given the canonization of John's statement that the purpose of the Incarnation is to give believers access to personal immortality. But maybe that's part of why orthodoxy seems so rigidly fragile: the people who filled the pews in the church I was raised in commonly viewed the matter this way, disregarding dogma. And Jews can and commonly do view the matter this way. I know no Jew whose favorite berakha is the one from the Amida that gives thanks "for having planted within us the seed of eternal life." By contrast, I know many Jews whose favorite berakha is the one for "having given us life, and sustained us, and having let us live to reach this day." And I know of no Jewish liturgy recited with so much enthusiasm as the Seder Dayeinu!, stating that the gifts we already have more than suffice. Is this not also your experience?

Ultimately, the reason why rational self-interest is a poor guide to understanding human behavior isn't merely that men are mortal, and it doesn't apply only to those whose individual or collective death is imminent. It's inadequate because there is, truly, no "self," because the individual or collective "self" conceived of as distinct from everything else, unconnected by love to God and to the rest of creation, is illusory and purposeless. Rosenzweig's argument from mortality is a specific aspect of this, but is only part of it. And the "morality of self-interest" that your book ends by describing serves only for those whose sense of "self" is broadened by love to include God and all His creatures. Ve-ahavta ... Love is what makes mortality bearable, it's what makes life worth living, and absent love, immortality would be a curse.

Your/Rosenzweig's argument is valid in the aggregate, for whole nations, because, sadly, so many people seem not to feel loved, and seem not to understand that our only true regret, at the end, is not having loved better. But in every nation whose death is imminent, there are people whose lives are not thereby bereft of purpose ... people whose ultimate loyalty and purpose was never vested in the tribe or the nation, even when its death was not imminent. Not all of those people have anticipated personal immortality. I have known many people who fled from Hitler or Stalin or other comparably evil despots, including some who fled not because they feared persecution but because they would not abet evil. Many of them did not anticipate personal immortality. But all of them, I think, did have a sense of self enlarged by love to include things broader and more enduring than their persons, tribes or nations.

What's ironic is that you plainly feel this: your book, like your essays, is a work of love -- notwithstanding the often dark ironic humor. And you clearly write, in part, in hope of helping individuals escape the collective suicides of their nations and civilizations: "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." Again, thank you. It is worth having waited for.

L'Shanah Tovah!
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Postby total issues » Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:19 am

Higher Game wrote:Hmm, this brings to mind an older post.

Spengler wrote:Greek culture got a second life from Christianity, and Byzantium reversed the pattern of demographic decline during the High Middle Ages, all the way until the 15th century, when the Turk was at the gate. I actually spent a good deal of time researching Byzantine demographics, which support the overall thesis, but will not include the material in the book -- there simply isn't enough room for every possible excursus.



Just as well, perhaps. Demographic data for the Roman empire is highly imprecise -estimates of the empire's population at its peak range from 50 million to over 100 million. That said, it is most likely that the demographic decline was due mainly to pandemic disease, and not some morally uplifting story of pagan decadence and Christian revival. A series of pandemics hit the empire after 165AD, while there is no record of any comparable plagues in the earlier history:

-the Antonine plague after 165 (not sure what, may have been measles to which the population had no resistance)
- mid 3rd century (probably smallpox)
and most devastating of all the bubonic plague of Justinian, in 547AD, which probably killed an even higher proportion of the population than the Black Death.

Of course the Byzantine population recovered - from a low in the 6th century, when the Empire had been Christian for 300 years (although the barbarians, not being urban or densely rural, were less affected - whether German, Slav, or Arab).

It may be banal, but blame bacteria, not pagan or secular decadence and ennui.
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