Document: Bob Goudzwaard, Capitalism and Progress: A Diagnosis of Western Society (Toronto: Wedge Publishing, 1979).

Excerpt: Approximately half a century ago Oswald Spengler’s famous book Decline of the West appeared in Germany. In two extensive volumes Spengler expounded the well-known thesis that the law of birth, maturity, and death applies not only to plants and animals but holds equally for civilizations. He was convinced that within the foreseeable future the culture of the West would disappear in the twilight of world history as had the Roman Empire. As evidence for this assertion he pointed to the disintegration of authority, the exaggerated attention paid to youth, and the craving for power and luxury as ends in themselves. He interpreted these phenomena as signs of cultural deterioration, comparable to that which accompanied the fall of the Roman Empire.

Meanwhile more than fifty years have passed. Admittedly, with reference to the life of civilizations, one must think in terms of centuries rather than decades. Nevertheless, enough time has passed to judge whether the course of events has confirmed Spengler’s prediction. It has not. Western society still exists and often strikes us more by its zest for life than by its death wish. Civilizations simply are not plants which emerge, flower, and die according to a set rhythm of life. We feel more at home with Arnold Toynbee who claims that the destiny of civilizations is primarily shaped by man himself, particularly by the manner in which he responds to challenges in his cultural development

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Capitalism And Progress: A Diagnosis Of Western Culture – Goudzwaard.pdf