Spengler's civilization model

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Oswald Spengler's civilization model appears as three tables on a three-page-long folded sheet, placed after the Introduction to his Der Untergang des Abendlandes: Gestalt und Wirklichkeit. The English translation, published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York in 1926 as The Decline of the West: Form and Actuality, carries these tables at the end of the volume. For their meaning and significance, see the main article.

Spiritual epochs[edit]

Phase Indian
from 1500 BC
from 1100 BC
from 0
from 900
Landscapely intuitive. Great creations of the newly awakened dream-heavy soul. Suprapersonal unity and fullness
Birth of a myth of the grand style expressing a new God-feeling. World-fear and world-longing
1500–1200 BC 1100–800 BC 1–300 900–1200
Earliest mystical-metaphysical shaping of the new world-outlook. Zenith of Scholasticism
Preserved in the oldest parts of the Vedas
Ripening consciousness. Earliest urban and critical stirrings
Reformation: internal popular opposition to the great springtime forms
10th–9th century BC 7th century BC
Beginning of a purely philosophical form of the world-feeling. Opposition of idealistic and realistic systems
Preserved in the Upanishads 6th–5th century BC 6–7th century
  • Byzantine, Jewish, Syrian, Coptic and Persian literature
16–17th century
Formation of a new mathematic conception of number as copy and content of world-form

Number as magnitude (measure)

The indefinite number (algebra)

  • Development not yet investigated

Number as function (analysis)

Puritanism. Rationalistic-mystic impoverishment of religion
Traces in the Upanishads
Intelligence of the city. Zenith of rigorous conceptualization
"Enlightenment". Belief in the almightiness of reason. Cult of "Nature". "Rational" religion

Sutras; Sankhya; Buddha; later Upanishads

Zenith of mathematical thought. Elucidation of the world of numerical concepts
Zero as a number
The great conclusive systems

Idealism: Yoga, Vedanta Epistemology: Vaisheshika Logic: Nyaya

Goethe, Kant

Onset of cosmopolitan civilization. End of crystallization of emotions into concepts. Life itself becomes problematical. Ethical-practical tendencies of a realized cosmopolitanism
Crystallized world-view. Cult of holistic understanding and emotionlessness

Sankhya, Cārvāka (Lokoyata)

Cynics, Cyrenaics, last Sophists (Pyrrhon)

Bentham, Comte, Darwin, Spencer, Stirner, Marx, Feuerbach

Ethical-social ideals of life. Epoch of "nonmathematical philosophy". "Skepsis"
Tendencies in Buddha's time Movements in Islam
Inner completion of the world of mathematical concepts. The concluding thought
Degradation of abstract thinking into professional lecture-room philosophy. Compendium literature
Schools of Baghdad and Basra
Spread of a final world-sentiment
Indian Buddhism since 500 Hellenistic-Roman Stoicism since 200 The practical fatalism in Islam since 1000 The spread of ethical socialism from 1900

Artistic epochs[edit]

Phase Egyptian Classical Arabian Western
Precultural period
Chaos of primitive expression forms. Mystical symbolism and naive imitation
Life history of a style formative of the entire outer being. Form-language of deepest symbolic necessity
Early period
Ornamentation and architecture as elementary expression of the young world-feeling (the "primitives")

OLD KINGDOM (2900–2400 BC)

DORIC (1100–500 BC)

EARLY ARABIAN FORM-WORLD (Sassanid, Byzantine, Armenian, Syrian, Sabæan, "late classical" and "early Christian") (0–500)

GOTHIC (900–1500)

Birth and rise. Forms sprung from the land, unconsciously shaped

Dynasties IVV (2930–2625 BC)

  • Geometrical temple style
  • Pyramid temples
  • Ranked plant-columns
  • Rows of flat relief
  • Tomb statues
11th–9th centuries BC 1st–3rd centuries 11–13th centuries
Completion of the early form-language. Exhaustion of possibilities. Contradiction
2320–2200 BC
  • 6th dynasty
  • End of pyramid and epic relief styles
  • Bloom of archaic portraits.
8th–7th centuries BC 4th–5th centuries 14–15th centuries
Late period
Formation of a group of urbanely exquisite arts in the hands of individuals (the "great masters")
Formation of a mature artistry
2130–1990 BC
Perfection of an intellectualized form-language
1990–1790 BC 480–350 BC 7–8th centuries
  • Umayyad dynasty
  • Complete victory of featureless arabesque over architecture also


  • Musical architecture ("rococo")
  • Reign of classical music from Bach to Mozart
  • End of classical oil painting from Watteau to Goya
Exhaustion of strict creativeness. Dissolution of grand form. End of style. "Classicism and romanticism"
Confusion after about 1750
Existence without inner form. Cosmopolitan art as a habit, luxury, sport, thrill. Rapidly changing fashions in art (revivals, arbitrary inventions, borrowings)
Modern art. "Art problems". Attempts to portray or to excite the metropolitan consciousness. Transformation of music, architecture and painting into mere craft arts
Hyksos period (1675–1550 BC). Preserved only in Crete (Minoan art) Hellenism
  • Pergamene art (theatricality)
  • Hellenistic painting modes (veristic, bizarre, subjective)
  • Archetictual display in the cities of the Diadochi
Sultan dynasties of 9th–10th centuries
  • Prime of Spanish-Sicilian art
  • Samarra
19th and 20th centuries
End of form development. Meaningless, empty, artificial, pretentious architecture and ornament. Imitation of archaic and exotic motives
18th dynasty (1550–1328 BC) Roman period (100 BC–100 AD) Seljuks (since 1050)
  • "Oriental art" of the crusade period
From 2000
Finale. Formation of a fixed stock of forms. Imperial display by means of material and mass. Provincial craft art
19th dynasty (1328–1195 BC)
  • Gigantic buildings of Luxor, Karnak, and Abydos
  • Small art (animal sculpture, textiles, arms)
Trajan to Aurelian Mongol period (from 1250)
  • Gigantic buildings (e.g. in India)
  • Oriental craft art (rugs, arms, implements)


German original Alfred A. Knopf's 1926 edition Current version Comment
Lebensgeschichte eines das gesamte äußere Sein formenden Stils. Life-history of a style formative of the entire inner-being. Life history of a style formative of the entire outer being. Äußer is "outer", not "inner"
Bildung einer Gruppe städtisch-bewußter, gewählter, von Einzelnen getragener Künste: "Die großen Meister" (Formation of a group of arts urban and conscious, in the hands of individuals) ("Great Masters") Formation of a group of urbanely exquisite arts in the hands of individuals (the "great masters") Städtisch-bewußt means "urbane", not "urban and conscious". Gewählt means "exquisite"
Weltstadtkunst als Gewohnheit, Luxus, Sport, Nervenreiz. Megalopolitan art as a common-place: luxury, sport, nerve excitement: Cosmopolitan art as a habit, luxury, sport, thrill. Weltstadt is "cosmopolis". Not every megalopolis is a cosmopolis
willkürliche Erfindungen arbitrary discoveries arbitrary inventions
Tierplastik beast plastic animal sculpture The Egyptian plastic art includes relief sculptures of birds and arthropods. Therefore, in this instance, Tier means "animal", not "beast": Der Vogel ist ein Tier

Political epochs[edit]

Phase Egyptian Classical Chinese Western
Precultural period
Primitive folk. Tribes and their chiefs. As yet no "politics" and no "state"
Thinite period (MENES) 3100–2600 Mycenaean age
("AGAMEMNON") 1600–1100
Shang period 1700–1300 Frankish period
National groups of definite style and particular world-feeling ("nations"). Working of an immanent state-idea
Early period
Organic differentiation of political existence. The first two estates—nobility and priesthood.
Feudal natural economy
1. Feudalism. Spirit of countryside and countryman. The "city" only a market or stronghold. Chivalric-religious ideals. Struggles of vassals amongst themselves and against overlord
  • Feudal conditions of IV and V dynasties (2550–2320 BC)
  • Increasing power of feudatories and priesthoods. The pharaoh as incarnation of Ra
The central ruler (Wang) pressed hard by the feudal nobility
  • Roman-German imperial period
  • Crusading nobility
  • Empire and papacy
2. Crisis and dissolution of patriarchal forms. From feudalism to aristocratic state
  • VI dynasty (2320–2200 BC): Breakup of the kingdom into heritable principalities.
  • VII and VIII dynasties: Interregnum
  • Aristocratic synoecism
  • Dissolution of kingship into annual offices
  • Oligarchy
934–904: I-Wang and the vassals
  • 842: Interregnum
  • Territorial princes
  • Renaissance towns. Lancaster and York
  • 1254: Interregnum
Late period
Actualization of the matured state-idea. Town versus countryside: emergence of the Third Estate (bourgeoisie). Victory of money over barter
3. Fashioning of a world of states of strict form. Frondes
11th dynasty
  • Overthrow of the baronage by the rulers of Thebes
  • Centralized bureaucracy-state
6th century
  • The first tyrannis (Cleisthenes, Periander, Polycrates, the Tarquins)
  • The city-state
Period of the "Protectors" (Ming-Chu 685–591) and the congresses of princes (–460) Dynastic family-power, and Fronde (Richelieu, Wallenstein, Cromwell)—ca. 1630
4. Climax of the state-form ("absolutism"). Unity of town and country ("state" and "society", the "three estates")
1990–1790: 12th dynasty The pure polis (absolutism of the demos) 590–480: Chun-Chiu period ("Spring and Autumn")
  • Seven powers
  • Perfection of social forms (Li)
Ancien Régime. Rococo. Court nobility of Versailles. Cabinet politics. Habsburg and Bourbon. Louis XIV, Frederick the Great
5. Break-up of the state-form (revolution and Napoleonism). Victory of the city over the countryside (of the "people" over the privileged, of the intelligentsia over tradition, of money over politics)
1788–1680: Revolution and military government. Decay of the realm. Small potentates, in some cases sprung from the people 4th century: Social revolution and the second tyrannis (Dionysus I, Jason of Pherae, Appius Claudius the Censor)


480: Beginning of the Chan-Kwo period

441: Fall of the Chou dynasty. Revolutions and annihilation-wars

End of the 18th century: Revolution in America and France (Washington, Fox, Mirabeau, Robespierre)


The body of the people, now essentially urban in constitution, dissolves into a formless mass. Cosmopolis and provinces. The Fourth Estate (the "masses")—inorganic, cosmopolitan
1. Domination of money ("democracy"). Economic powers permeating the political forms and authorities
1675–1550: Hyksos period. Deepest decline. Dictatures of alien generals (Chian). After 1600, definitive victory of the rulers of Thebes 300–100: Political Hellenism. From Alexander to Hannibal and Scipio, royal all-power; from Cleomenes III and C. Flaminius (220) to C. Marius, radical demagogues 480–230: Period of the "contending states"
  • 288: The imperial title. The imperialist statesmen of Tsin
  • From 289, incorporation of the last states into the empire
  • 19th century: From Napoleon to World War I. "System of great powers", standing armies, constitutions
  • 20th century: Transition from constitutional to informal sway of individuals. Annihilation wars. Imperialism
2. Formation of Caesarism. Victory of force-politics over money. Increasing primitiveness of political forms. Inward decline of the nations into a formless population, and constitution thereof as an imperium of gradually increasing crudity of despotism
1580–1350: Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt 100 BC–100 AD: Sulla to Domitian 250 BC–26 AD: House of Wang-Cheng and Western Han dynasty
  • 221 BC: Augustus title (Shi) of emperor (Hwang-ti)
  • 140–80 BC: Wu-ti
3. Maturing of the final form. Private and family policies of individual leaders. The world as spoil. Egypticism, mandarinism, Byzantinism. Historyless stiffening and enfeeblement even of the imperial machinery, against young peoples eager for spoil, or alien conquerors. Primitive human conditions slowly thrust up into the highly civilized mode of living
1350–1205: Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt 100–300: Trajan to Aurelian 25–320: Eastern Han dynasty after 2200


German original Alfred A. Knopf's 1926 edition Current version Comment
Organische Gliederung des politischen Daseins. Organic articulation of political existence. Organic differentiation of political existence. "Articulation" means "jointing together", whereas Gliederung means "separation into parts", "differentiation"
Die beiden frühen Stande: Adel und Priestertum. The two prime classes (noble and priest). The first two estates—nobility and priesthood.
Feudalwirtschaft der reinen Bodenwerte Feudal economics; purely agrarian values Feudal natural economy Wirtschaft is "economy", not "economics"
Auflösung des Königtums in Jahresämter Dissolution of kinship into annual offices Dissolution of kingship into annual offices
Die Stadt gegen das Land: Entstehung des Dritten Standes [Bürgertum]. Town versus countryside. Rise of Third Estate (Bourgeoisie). Town versus countryside: emergence of the Third Estate (bourgeoisie). "Rise" is unsuitable because it can mean just an improvement in status
Sieg des Geldes über die Güter Victory of money over landed property Victory of money over barter In literal translation, "Victory of money over goods"
Sieg ... des Geldes über die Politik Victory ... of money over policy Victory ... of money over politics A policy is a plan of action adopted by a government. The word "politics", in this context, denotes the policy-formulating aspects of government
Periode Tschun-tsiu ["Frühling und Herbst"] 590–480. Chun-Chiu period (" Spring" and "Autumn"), 590–480 590–480: Chun-Chiu period ("Spring and Autumn")
Weltstadt und Provinz: Megalopolis and provinces. Cosmopolis and provinces. Weltstadt is "cosmopolis". Not every megalopolis is a cosmopolis
Geschichtsloses Erstarren History less stiffening Historyless stiffening


External links[edit]

The following links to print versions of the tables are provided for verification purposes.
In German:

In English: