unHerd: It’s not the end of the world

Fantasies of decline can make you powerless

BY OLIVER BATEMAN December 29, 2021

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He is also a co-host of the “What’s Left?” podcast

Theories of decline are on the rise: we are inundated with stories about impending civil war and looming climate apocalypse; studies show that civilisation could collapse within a few decades; eccentric “cliometricians” warn of a miserable decade ahead.

Sounds like bad news, right? Perhaps. But it has always been this way. Historian Arthur Herman’s 1997 book The Idea of Decline in Western History describes declinism from its nineteenth-century origins in concepts of racial and intellectual degeneration to its late twentieth-century manifestations in the eco-pessimism of Al Gore and Ted Kacyznski. Herman’s major point — that theories of decline evolve in a dialectical fashion both with theories of progress and with competing theories of decline — is about as unexciting a perspective as any author can offer, so it should hardly come as a surprise that his work failed to stem the tide of warmed-over apocalyptic literature.


About michael burgwin

A child of the peace and antiWar movements, a Truther with self-diagnosed Opposition Defiance Disorder, formerly politically liberal tho now politically marooned, and Post-Doomer, on any issue, I trend to the conspiracy side, sort through the absurd, fantastical and insane, until I find firm ground usually located just the other side of the censorship firewall of propaganda and orthodoxy, dogma, and other either / or thinking.
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