Arthur Herman examined the idea of decline in Western history and explained how pessimism about Western civilization’s inevitable end is now permanent in the American imagination. He used examples ranging from Nazism to Fabians to Freud to Madonna to explain his viewpoints. Herman traced the roots of declinism and showed how major philosophers such as Foucault and Nietzsche contributed to this new ideology. His main argument was that although the West rose triumphant from the Cold War, intellectuals pessimistically predicted the decline of the West.
Herman’s opinions and arguments were fairly based for most of his book but a few of his accusations and interpretations for the philosophers seemed harsh. His reasons for the continual influence of the West instead of its decline are persuasive and well-appointed. Herman does an excellent job introducing the philosophy of history because his writing is articulate. This book is excellent for amateur and academic scholars because it covers classic works and is entertaining too. Herman included dozens of endnotes after each chapter with the majority based on primary sources. His book was a thought-provoking read.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Herman, Arthur. The Idea of Decline in Western History. New York: The Free Press, 1997.